NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A health care company known for its outspoken support of a woman's legal right to an abortion is setting up shop in Nashville.
After launching clinics in the Washington, D.C., area, Atlanta and Chicago, Carafem will open its Nashville location Friday. Their marketing slogan captures part of their no-nonsense approach to the procedure: "Abortion. Yeah, we do that."
"There have been more and more challenges to make sure women don't have the option to get an abortion. We of course believe the choice is simple - it's health care," said Melissa Grant, Carafem's chief operating officer, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "We need to be there for them."
The move comes after the only remaining clinic offering abortion services in Nashville temporarily stopped last year. The clinic's suspension of abortion services sparked concerns about women's access to the procedure in a Republican-dominated state where GOP lawmakers have fought to make the procedure more difficult to obtain.
Most recently, a bill that would ban most women from obtaining abortions once a fetus' heartbeat is detected — usually around six weeks — has won enthusiastic support from Gov. Bill Lee and other Republican leaders despite warnings about the proposal's chances of surviving a legal challenge.
"We certainly know that abortion itself can be controversial but we know there's nothing controversial to offering health care to women," Grant said.
Carafem's launch in Tennessee was partly motivated after the company's Atlanta clinic saw an uptick in clients when Nashville's Planned Parenthood location briefly stopping abortion services in December. Planned Parenthood had been the only health care center to offer abortion services in the booming southern region of Tennessee ever since another Nashville provider — The Women's Center — abruptly closed after its building was sold and has yet to reopen despite claims it was looking for a new location.
During Planned Parenthood's abortion service pause, Carafem noticed that during January the average woman coming to Atlanta had traveled an average of 250 miles. Approximately 5 percent of the clientele came from Tennessee. Planned Parenthood had referred patients to clinics in Knoxville and Memphis, which are almost 200 miles (321 kilometers) way from Nashville. Atlanta is roughly the same distance.
For Grant, that solidified the need to open a Nashville location.
Carafem says a medical abortion costs $600 and a typical appointment lasts about one hour or less. Surgical abortions may be offered at a later date.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health Services, roughly 8,600 abortions were performed in Tennessee in 2017. That's down from 14,250 in 2008.