Tennessee Gov. Haslam quietly signs abortion-restrictions bill

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 on Friday signed into law a measure that requires Tennessee abortion providers to meet stricter standards as outpatient surgical care treatment centers.

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

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the New York-based 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, who 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 the measure is needed for women's safety.

The bill was one of three measures abortion opponents pushed through 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 hold a face-to-face conversation with women seeking abortions, describing the procedure and detailing impacts to the fetus and potential impacts to the woman's health.

Haslam has said he would sign all three.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.