Abortion is easier to get in TN than a tatoo

By Tilly Dillehay

If you walk into a dentist office in Tennessee to have a cavity filled, the dentist is required by law to acquire informed consent from you. This means that by law, she has to go over some basic information.

She’ll have to tell you the nature of the procedure, explain reasonable alternatives to the proposed intervention, and the relevant risks, benefits, and uncertainties related to each alternative. She’ll have to assess your understanding, and get a verbal or written acceptance of the intervention from you.

This is just Basic Medical Care 101. In the medical world, patients are supposed to know what happens to them in a doctor’s office. They’re supposed to be educated before they consent to let a doctor operate on them.

This is why it comes as such a surprise to me that when a woman walks into an abortion facility in Tennessee to terminate a pregnancy, she may not get any of that. In fact, legally, she doesn’t have to be told anything about anything before they lay her down and get to work.

Here’s something even more shocking: She has no way of knowing anything about the basic health and safety standards of a facility she walks into. We live in a state where a tattoo artist or veterinarian has to undergo more rigorous certification and facility inspection than an abortion provider.

That’s right. Only half of the abortion clinics in this state are overseen, licensed, or inspected by ANY THIRD PARTY. The Department of Health, though perfectly willing to regulate these facilities as it does almost every other medically-related field, is legally unable to do so.

None of the facilitates are required to undergo inspection; some voluntarily submit to it. Many of those, once inspected, have routinely failed health codes (a recent inspection of a Knoxville facility rendered 57 pages of deficiencies, including uncertified medical personnel and dirty medical equipment).

Think about that.

Let’s just go back and think, for one second, about what is happening in the process of an abortion. A woman’s body is invaded, either by drug or by serious surgical procedure. And I do mean serious: in one version of the abortion procedures legally conducted in Tennessee, the abortionist reaches in with a foreign object, crushes the skull of the fetus, suctions body parts out of a living, breathing woman, and then re-assembles them to make sure nothing was left inside. This is done under local or general anesthesia. In other cases, he may simply use a suction technique, a saline injection, or an abortive pill, which results in a forced miscarriage, which may or may not be followed by a D&C.

I’m attempting—excuse me—to lay aside for a moment the moral outrage that I feel when I consider that Planned Parenthood (which is legally classified as a non-profit organization) reported a profit (revenue over expenditure) of $58.2 million for 2012-2013, and that PP performed 3,643,988 abortions between 2000 and 2012, according to their own published reports.

Laying aside the stomach-turning fact that this organization literally profits off of the bodies of women and their children, and is supported (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year) by both federal and state government… just putting that aside for a moment, let us examine this little troubling thing about Tennessee and the total lack of medical accountability that our abortionists are currently held to.

PP is responsible for something else, as well. They’re responsible for making Tennessee into an abortion destination. They’re responsible for the fact that abortionists in our state are free to do business without oversight and without structure, peddling death with the ease and convenience of a vending machine.

I’m biased, obviously. Clearly I’m biased, because I consider abortion itself to be morally reprehensible, a machine that has run away with the sane hearts and minds of the American people.

But even if I agree to set aside argument about the ethics of abortion, we should all be able to agree on one thing: it’s not good for women to be treated this way. This is an entire branch of the “medical” industry in our state we’re talking about. Women have the right to know exactly what’s happening to them and their unborn child, and to know that the person making it happen is being overseen by some regulating entity.

They also have the right to know that ten years ago, Nashville’s #1 abortion provider (PP, located downtown) went to court to prove that they no longer had to be inspected and licensed by the TN Department of Health. (They won, and this is why the Dept. of Health currently has its hands tied.)

There is now no routine inspection or licensure process in abortion facilities in Tennessee. There is no informed consent, no waiting period, no required ultrasounds. Nothing, in fact, that might give a girl reasonable hope that her abortion experience will be as safe and well informed as her trip to the tattoo parlor.

The number of abortions in Tennessee has risen dramatically in the last fourteen years, and one in four of the women who get abortions here each year are coming from out of state, because Tennessee offers unregulated abortion on demand, unlike any other state in the Southeast region of the U.S.

That’s right. Tennessee: the land of good country music, good craft beer, and in-n-out abortion day
trips.

How did this happen? Tennessee hasn’t always been this way. The people of Tennessee, through the voices of their elected representatives, have spent years placing commonsense protections into the structure of our society for women considering abortion.

Here’s how it happened. In 2000, all of those protections were overturned, in one day, by just a handful of people.

Because of one TN Supreme Court ruling in 2000, in a case titled “Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee V. Sundquist,” all of the laws on the books regarding abortion—and any future ones attempted—were rendered unenforceable.

We just had an election yesterday. In November of this year, there will be another election. On the ballot, you’ll see something called Amendment 1. Amendment 1 does only one thing: it nullifies that ruling of fourteen years ago, and allows our common sense protections to do what they were designed to do.

It doesn’t make abortion illegal (although some of us may wish it did). It doesn’t actually write any abortion-specific laws at all; only our elected officials can do that. It simply states, explicitly, that people of Tennessee have the right to place safeguards around women considering abortion.

This is why I, and others you may talk to, will ask you to do the following: vote Yes on Amendment 1 in November. For more information, visit www.yesonone.org.

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1 thought on “Abortion is easier to get in TN than a tatoo”

  1. You are asking for people to strip constitutional rights from women, even in cases of, as the amendment puts it, “pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.” Do you get that? You’re taking away the right of a woman to get an extremely safe medical procedure (such as take a pill that will induce a miscarriage), even IF PREGNANCY OR CHILDBIRTH WILL KILL THEM. How this can be considered a “pro-life” message is beyond me.

    You have written things that aren’t true, Tilly. Yes, abortion providers must get informed consent from their patients. Just the same as you do when you get your tooth filled. I think you’re referring to the fact that courts found it was a violation of the Tennessee Constitution to require that all abortion providers go through specific material — created not by doctors but by legislators — with each abortion-seeking patient. It’s as if state legislators told your dentist she had to sit down with you, show you models of little wisdom teeth, tell you your wisdom teeth were capable of feeling pain, pray with you over the poor dears, before getting them removed.

    Another unfortunate lie in this post is that abortion in Tennessee is unsafe. Tennessee has strict regulations for the abortion procedures, which is one of the safest medical procedures around. Abortion opponents are disingenuously trying to shut down clinics by passing laws requiring facilities to have expensive and unnecessary equipment — specific hall-width requirements and massive ventilation systems that simply are not necessary for a procedures that already has such a low rate of complications. Anyone claiming that Amendment 1 is about “the safety and welfare of women” is disingenuous. Outlawing abortion, which is the ultimate aim of those behind Amendment 1, will radically endanger the lives of many women, due to women being driven to unsafe back-alley abortion providers, women committing suicide because they feel they have no other options, or women being forced to undergo pregnancies and deliveries that endanger their lives.

    Regarding the Knoxville facility problems: all citations were “priority 3 violations, which the state defines as deficiencies that caused “no actual harm” to patients” — like having some medications in storage containers that weren’t locked and having a problem with the utility room exhaust system. All of the problems were fixed last April. See news story here: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/local-news/state-inspections-find-deficiencies-at-abortion

    Regarding Planned Parenthood’s “profit” — that isn’t profit, it’s all reinvested into providing care to women, supporting staff and improving facilities (which you should support, since you appear to be very concerned about their facilities). I found the full breakdown here: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/7413/9620/1089/AR-FY13_111213_vF_rev3_ISSUU.pdf

    Please, Tilly, cite your sources if nothing else. You can have a strongly-held emotional opinion, but you’re a journalist, and you’re smart — you should know that you need to present accurate facts.

    I don’t mean to suggest that the decision to seek an abortion should be easy. These are really, really complex decisions. That’s why they should be left to the women most affected by them, in consultation with their families, doctors, and faith leaders. The idea that politicians would be better arbiters of this decision feels dangerously arrogant to me. That’s why I am voting No on Amendment 1.

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