New Tennessee law requires stricter abortion clinic standards

Gov. Bill Haslam speaks during the 37th annual Chattanooga Area Leadership Prayer Breakfast at the Chattanooga Convention Center in this file photo.

NASHVILLE -- With little fanfare, Gov. Bill Haslam today signed into law a measure that requires Tennessee abortion providers to meet stricter standards as outpatient surgical care treatment centers.

But while there was no announcement from the Republican governor or pro-life advocates, the new law that takes effect July 1 swiftly drew criticisms from a national abortion-rights group.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, charged that Tennesseans' approval last fall of a new state constitutional amendment allowing more abortion restrictions "opened the door for Tennessee politicians to begin demonstrating their hostility to women's constitutional rights and indifference to their well-being, and now they have marched right through.

"With the stroke of a pen," Northup added in her statement, "reproductive health clinics are threatened with closure and Tennessee's reputation as one of the few states in the South to protect women's rights and health care will be history."

The law now requires all abortion providers, including physicians, that perform 50 or more abortions a year to be regulated as ambulatory surgical treatment centers. That subjects them to new building requirements, which critics say will lead to closure of some clinics that can't afford multimillion dollar tabs to come into compliance.

Proponents say it is needed for women's safety.

The bill was one of three measures abortion opponents pushed in the state Legislature this year. A second measure imposes a 48-hour waiting period on women seeking an abortion. The third requires a physician to describe in person to a woman the procedure and impacts to the fetus and potential impacts to the woman's health.

Haslam has said he would sign all three.