Abortion Clinic Moves Up the Street to Escape One State’s Ban

Tennessee banned abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade case, ending the nationwide right to terminate a pregnancy. A women’s health clinic in Bristol, Tennessee, came up with a creative solution. Rather than close its doors, it relocated a mere mile up the road to Bristol, Virginia, where abortion remained legal.

It was supposed to be a simple solution. But relocating between the twin cities brought a host of challenges.

Bristol Women’s Health has faced logistical hurdles, legal concerns, and local opposition since re-opening in late July across the state line. The state border runs through the cities’ shared main street. 

Its experience encapsulates the complicated new reality of abortion in America. 

Abortion laws now vary dramatically from one state to another, in a patchwork of laws across the country. It has now left many communities without any access to the procedure. Tennessee is one of about a dozen Republican-led states that enforced near-total bans on abortion after the court’s ruling.

No other clinic offered abortion services within 80 miles of Bristol. Diane Derzis, who owns the new facility, viewed the neighboring state as the logical place to move.

The procedure was banned in Tennessee but not banned in Virginia, which allows abortion in the second trimester and into the third in limited circumstances. 

A new poll of state residents showed split results, with half saying they believed the state’s abortion laws were reasonable and should not be altered. But many in Bristol, Virginia, which is a more Red city, were unhappy to see an abortion clinic come to the city of about 17,000 people.

Former president Republican Donald Trump won 68 percent of the vote in the city in the 2020 presidential election. 

Some residents said they oppose abortion. But that is not the main reason people did not want the clinic. More said they don’t want the din of anti-abortion protesters in their neighborhood, which is home to elderly residents and families with young children.

Several others who live near the clinic said it had not been disruptive.

The mayor of Bristol, Virginia, Anthony Farnum has received dozens of calls, texts, and emails from residents asking him to close the clinic. But the mayor has to explain to them that he has no power to do so as long as Virginia permits abortion

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