Pro-Life Law May Stop Abortions in Knoxville, Tennessee

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 5, 2012   |   12:55PM   |   Knoxville, TN

The state of Mississippi is getting considerable media attention over a law there that could make the state the first abortion-free state in the nation, but the same law in Tennessee may end abortions in Knoxville.

The law requires abortion practitioners to have admitting privileges at a local hospital in the more-common-than-thought cases when an abortion goes awry and the botched abortion necessitates immediate emergency medical care for the woman involved. In April, the Tennessee Legislature passed the Life Defense Act that, like the new Mississippi statute, requires such admitting privileges for abortion practitioners.

Knoxville has two abortion facilities — Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health (KCRH) and Volunteer Women’s Medical Clinic (VWMC) — and a new report in the liberal Metro Pulse publication says they are having a hard time keeping abortion practitioners with such privileges.

At VWMC, Dr. Richard Manning is the primary physician, and he has opted not to restore his admitting privileges, which he relinquished years ago when he transitioned from full-time OB/GYN practice to the ambulatory surgery clinic. Dr. Manning is 69. As of Sunday, July 1 he can no longer perform abortions in Tennessee.

His colleague at KCRH (Morris Campbell), whose family requested we not use his name, applied for and received admitting privileges at University of Tennessee Medical Center. Days later he suffered a stroke, and two weeks ago he died. Another local doctor who worked at the clinic earlier in her career has stepped in temporarily, but she is unwilling to assume duties at either clinic permanently.

Corinne Rovetti, co-director and family nurse practitioner at KCRH, says that doctors who perform abortions tend to be older, having practiced prior to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. For younger generations of doctors, the dangers of back-room abortions are abstract, so many see abortion as a controversy to steer clear from rather than a social justice concern to tackle. Rovetti says this shift in attitude has limited the pool of potential recruits to replace Dr. C.

A month ago, East Tennessee women “had two mature, seasoned doctors providing abortion services,” Rovetti says. As of July 1, there is no dedicated physician.

The abortion facilities are hoping to recruit a local doctor who already has admitting privileges to do abortions but, otherwise, they admit abortions may be curtailed for weeks or months until a replacement is found. Even if a physician outside the area is recruited to do abortions and finds a hospital willing to allow admission privileges, it takes 30-60 days for the admitting privileges to be established. That’s a several week time period where women considering abortions may be inclined to keep their baby.

KCRH performs around 1,600 abortions per year, with a quarter of those being non-surgical, Metro reports. Should the clinic have a harder time finding a new abortion practitioner, that will result in women and children’s lives saved.

C. Brent Boles, a Murfreesboro, Tennessee OBGYN, strongly supports the new state law.

“Currently, abortion facilities in Tennessee frequently do not provide any resource for patients to receive help or have questions answered after hours or on weekends,” he explained during consideration of it. “Patients are left to fend for themselves. They present to emergency rooms all over the state and they call GYN offices where the providers are not abortion providers and have no experience providing abortion services and they need help.”

“Complications of any procedure are best managed by those providers with the most experience in the particular field…complications of abortion are best managed by abortion providers,” Dr. Boles continued. “In order to have complete access to everything that a post-abortion patient would need, the provider who cares for these patients must have access to the facilities in a hospital….They must have access to the resources needed, and sometimes these resources are available only in a hospital.”

“Abortion providers should have a clear process, communicated to the patient in a simple way, that outlines how the patient is to contact the provider after hours for problems, and where they are to go if they must go to the Emergency Room,” he said.

Requiring abortion practitioners to have such admitting privileges is not new and the state of Indiana has pursued them because of problems with botched abortions.

Because so many women suffer from botched abortions that require immediate follow-up medical care, local officials approved what it said is a needed ordinance. It requires any abortion practitioners coming to Fort Wayne from out of town to inform a local hospital because they would not have proper admitting privileges to admit women who are victimized by failed abortions and need immediate medical care.

A judge issued a ruling that pro-life groups said was favorable for the much-needed law. Alliance Defense Fund attorneys representing Allen County say the court order the judge issued denies most of abortion practitioner George Klopfer’s motion to stop critical aspects of the new Patient Safety Ordinance.

ADF tells that means those provisions can go into effect and that the door is open for other Indiana counties to enact similar legislation.

“A patient’s health is more important than an abortionist’s bottom line,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Steven H. Aden.

“The county simply can’t put the health and safety of patients at risk because one man wants to perform abortions without a sensible safety precaution that applies to all out-of-town physicians, not just abortionists,” he said. “The ordinance is very clearly designed to make sure that patients receive appropriate treatment in a medical emergency that can arise after an itinerant physician has gone back home and is no longer available to care for the patient.”

Dr. Geoff Cly, a Fort Wayne gynecologist who has treated several of a local abortion practitioner’s patients after failed abortions, told the Fort Wayne newspaper at the time the bill is needed.



“I’m disappointed because patients are being harmed and the powers that be aren’t taking action to protect the women,” Cly said. “How can we hold him accountable like the rest of surgeons? Admission privileges are one way. If anyone has any other ways, let me know.”

According to Americans United for Life, a national pro-life group that promotes state legislation, abortion practitioners in eleven states are required to maintain local hospital admitting privileges. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.