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Tennesseans are imagining a post-Roe state. Some say we’re already living in it.

Blake Farmer

The draft Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has some imagining what life will be like in Tennessee without abortion access.

But the state has already put in place many barriers that make it difficult to get an abortion here, says Mother Jones reporter Becca Andrews.

“I would say that in Tennessee, we’ve been living in a post-Roe reality for quite some time,” she says.

Tennessee has a mandatory 48-hour waiting period and mandated counseling, intended to dissuade people from getting abortions. The longer someone waits for an abortion, the more expensive it can become.

That’s on top of barriers like finding childcare and travel costs.

Andrews says that it’s especially burdensome for people living in rural communities who have to travel long distances to get care. Because of waiting periods and counseling, two trips to a clinic are required before an abortion can occur.

Tennessee currently has six operational health providers that offer abortions — and they are clustered around city centers like Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville.

As a result, some people travel across state lines to get abortions quicker and cheaper than they could in Tennessee.

“I had to travel to Washington, D.C., last month,” says Sarah. (We are using a pseudonym for Sarah to protect her personal and professional privacy.) “It was going to be the most affordable way. It was going to be the fastest way that I could get one. So for all these people who are saying that like, ‘Oh, it’s going to get so bad.’ … It already is. We’re already there.”

One Tennessee dad who requested anonymity says that he and his wife found out their son had a lethal abnormality. The baby wouldn’t be able to survive outside the womb. “So we had to choose between holding him in our arms as he died a painful death or putting him to rest inside the womb,” he says. “Choosing to terminate the pregnancy was the hardest decision that we have ever made.”

They tried to make an appointment with an abortion provider in the state, but he says they couldn’t get one in a timely manner.

“And so we had to drive hours away to an out-of-state clinic, passed billboards that implied we were murdering our son,” he says.

If Roe is overturned, and the state’s trigger ban goes into effect, traveling out of state would become a necessity for everyone seeking an abortion.

Copyright 2022 WPLN News. To see more, visit WPLN News.

Paige Pfleger covers criminal justice for WPLN News. Previously she has worked in Central Ohio at WOSU News, covering criminal justice and the addiction crisis, and was named Ohio's reporter of the year by the Associated Press in 2019. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR, The Washington Post, Marketplace, and PRI's The World, and she has worked in the newsrooms of The Tennessean, Michigan Radio, WHYY, Vox and NPR headquarters in DC.
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