July 13, 2015 — A federal judge in Tennessee on Thursday extended a temporary restraining order blocking a state law (SB 1280) from taking effect that would require abortion clinics in the state to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers, allowing two clinics to remain open, WBIR reports (Barchenger, WBIR, 7/9).
The law, which was scheduled to take effect on July 1, would require all facilities or physician offices that perform more than 50 surgical abortions annually to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers.
Four of the six abortion clinics in the state that provide surgical abortions currently meet the licensing standards, while a fifth provider, in Knoxville, only provides medication abortion and is, therefore, not subject to the requirement. Bristol Regional Women's Center and the Women's Center in Nashville are the two remaining clinics that provide surgical abortions and are not licensed as ambulatory surgical centers.
The Center for Reproductive Rights last month filed a lawsuit against three antiabortion-rights laws, including the ambulatory surgical licensing requirement, in Tennessee on behalf of three abortion clinics and an ob-gyn in the state. CRR filed suit on behalf of Bristol Regional Women's Center; the Women's Center in Nashville; CHOICES, the Memphis Center for Reproductive Health; and Wesley Adams, an ob-gyn who provides abortion care at the Bristol and Nashville clinics.
CRR asked the court to block the ambulatory surgical center requirement while the lawsuit against all three laws continues. According to lawsuit, the Bristol and Nashville clinics risk closure because they do not meet the ambulatory surgical center standards.
In June, U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp blocked the ambulatory surgical center requirement and said he would decide at the July 9 hearing about whether to extend the injunction. The injunction did not apply to the two other laws being challenged, including an admitting privileges requirement enacted in 2012 and a 48-hour mandatory delay (SB 1222) that went into effect on July 1 (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/29).
In his order Thursday, Sharp told the state licensing board to work with the clinics to resolve the issue outside of court.
According to WBIR, if they are unable to reach a resolution outside of court, they will return to court Aug. 10 to discuss the possibility of a preliminary injunction (WBIR, 7/9).