Nashville's only remaining abortion clinic is still closed, but it plans to resume procedures next month following an indefinite suspension that started in early December. Officials with Planned Parenthood of Tennessee say the suspension of abortions was primarily a result of a bumpy merger between the Nashville and Memphis offices.
The consolidation, which took effect in mid-2018, is meant to save money and strengthen the organization. And chief medical officer Sarah Wallett says there were some predictable hiccups along the way.
"With any merger, I think there's staff turnover. There were changes in our processes and how the clinic function is run, what roles people play," she says. "All of that was really important that we got that right."
It's led to a reshuffling of staff. Roughly 40 percent of employees in the Nashville office are new and required training to assist with surgical abortions. When the suspension was first reported, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson also said the organization was having trouble attracting providers.
The Nashville Scene spoke to four staffers anonymously who described a tumultuous six-month transition period in which the new management was more concerned about cutting expenses than giving the best care to patients.
"Like other health care organizations, it's important that we are able to provide care sustainably, use our resources wisely, but never at the expense of patients," Wallett says.
The facility off Charlotte Avenue has only provided wellness services during the abortion downtime. Yet protesters like John Risner of Franklin still show up many days. He says he's disappointed the halt turned out to be temporary.
"I would love to see this place closed," he says. "I would love to see the law changed that it's a life from day one."
Since early December, abortion opponents have reported an uptick in calls to a local hotline set up to discourage pregnant women from seeking an abortion. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has been directing them to travel to the Memphis office until the Nashville facility is ready to begin offering abortions again.