Rumors that an abortion doctor plans to set up a clinic in Chattanooga have riled legislators and pro-life advocates in the area.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to keep him out,” Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, said Friday. “The damage (abortion) does to lives and families, I just don’t think it’s something we need in our area.”
But the doctor in question, Charlotte, N.C.-based Dr. Stuart Schneider, apparently knows nothing about the new clinic, according to his office assistant.
“That was a mistake, and we have no clue how that happened,” said Charity, who declined to give her last name out of safety concerns.
Since the beginning of this week, Dr. Schneider’s office has been deluged by calls from Chattanooga patients seeking abortions, as well as threatening e-mails from opponents to the clinic’s alleged move to Chattanooga, Charity said.
ABORTIONS IN TENNESSEE
In Tennessee there were 12,586 abortions in 2006, the most recent year in which data is available. That’s a rate of 8.7 abortions per 1,000 females between the ages of 10 and 44.
In Hamilton County in 2006, there were 382 abortions, or a rate of 5.2 abortions per 1,000 females.
Source: Tennessee Department of Health
“It hasn’t been pretty,” she said, noting that she also was surprised to learn of the Web site www.tnabortion.com, which is purported to be part of Dr. Schneider’s practice, A Premier Women’s Health Center in Charlotte, N.C.
The company has clinics in Charlotte; Raleigh, N.C.; and Augusta, Ga.
“This is horrible, so we’re gonna have to end up researching to find out who did this because it’s causing a lot of trouble,” Charity said.
Dr. Schneider, who has been out of town since last week, was “very upset” to learn Friday about the Web site but declined to speak to the media, she said.
When informed of the situation, Rep. Floyd said Friday afternoon that he’s hesitant to comment without hearing new information on the clinic directly from the source, but he said of the clinic, “If it’s not coming here, that is really great news, and if it is coming here, I am opposed to it.”
A HISTORY OF CONTROVERSY
Earlier this week, David Fowler, a former Republican state senator who represented Signal Mounntain, discussed the rumored clinic in a meeting with pro-life supporters in Chattanooga.
Mr. Fowler, who heads the Family Action Council of Tennessee in Nashville, said when he first saw the Web site about the clinic, he sent out an e-mail advising community members who would be concerned about it.
The news unleashed a furor from abortion opponents, including Charles Wysong, president of the American Rights Coalition, a Chattanooga-based advocacy group that gives counseling and support to women who have had abortions.
“My main concern is the exploitation of women and the murder of little babies,” he said.
If an abortion clinic ever does try to come to Chattanooga, Mr. Fowler said, he is confident resistance will be strong.
“I anticipate that the community here ... will do whatever it can to keep Hamilton County free from abortion clinics,” he said.
Others think that access to abortion services locally would provide a critical service for women.
“Any woman in the Chattanooga area seeking an abortion does have to drive at a minimum two hours which, to us, is a burden,” said Keri Adams, vice president of community affairs for Nashville-based Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee. “We believe the right to abortion is a fundamental part of women’s health care, and attempts to outlaw or restrict it do nothing but cause women to make a difficult decision like this with a lack of access and a lack of quality providers.”
Chattanooga has not had an abortion clinic since 1993, when the Chattanooga Women’s Clinic on Vance Road was purchased by pro-life group AAA Women’s Services in federal bankruptcy court, according to Chattanooga Times Free Press archives.
A bidding war took place between the clinic’s doctor and pro-life advocates, said Mr. Wysong, who was involved in nine years of protest against the clinic until its closure. The pro-life advocates won, and instead of renewing the clinic’s lease they set up a counseling service to discuss alternatives to abortion.