(Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.)
Bristol, Tenn./Va. (WJHL) — A women’s health clinic in the Tri-Cities region that provides medication abortion services and other gynecological care is seeking to open a new clinic across the state line in order to keep providing abortion services.
After the Supreme Court ruled Friday that states are free to enact their own abortion restrictions, a looming abortion ban in Tennessee would stop The Bristol Regional Women’s Center in Bristol, Tenn. from providing abortion services.
This is why those who operate the clinic are planning to open a new clinic across the state line in sister-city Bristol, Va. to be called “Bristol Women’s Health, PLLC.”
“We will do everything within our power to help keep abortion accessible to the women in our area. As of now, we have secured a location in Bristol, Virginia, where we will continue to offer our abortion services legally,” writes Dr. Wesley F. Adams, Jr., a doctor for the Bristol clinic, in a GoFundMe posting online.
The Bristol Regional Women’s Center will remain open to provide all other women’s health services they currently provide.
When Tennessee’s trigger law is enacted, banning all abortion, the clinic will no longer provide abortion services.
Deborah Jo Adams, who organized the GoFundMe page, says the Bristol, VA office will provide medication abortions up to 10 weeks, along with gynecological services.
New Channel 11 could not reach Dr. Wesley Adams for an interview Monday. However, the posting on GoFundMe he authored shows his desire to keep abortion accessible in the region, even if it requires opening a new clinic.
“We will need all the support we can receive to make this happen. Funds raised will be used to purchase medical equipment, obtain an ultrasound machine, and acquire other items necessary to open our new office in Bristol, Virginia,” writes Adams.
As of the publishing of this story, more than one thousand people donated over $77,000 to the cause on GoFundMe.
“Any donation is greatly appreciated by me, my staff, and the women who may need our abortion services,” wrote Dr. Adams.
Tennessee’s trigger law that is expected to take effect in late July bans all abortion, with the only exception being if a physician deems abortion is necessary in cases where a pregnancy puts the mother at risk of death or serious bodily injury.
Abortion providers could be prosecuted and jailed for providing an illegal abortion, not the woman involved.
There is no exception for rape or incest.
In downtown Bristol on State Street, the state line runs through the heart of both Bristols, one side of the street is Tennessee and the other side Virginia. The state line now serves as a dividing line when it comes to abortion access.
Bristol, Tennessee will soon be a place where abortion is illegal.
Across the street In Bristol, Virginia, current laws allow abortion to remain legal.
Some residents say they want the clinic to keep providing abortion and women’s health services in the region.
“If they are able to get private donations and move, they should do that. It’s still gonna be convenient for people in this region because it is right across the state line,” said Miranda Heistand.
Adams points out that the Bristol Regional Women’s Center provides many services beyond abortion.
“I offer a wide range of gynecological services, including cervical cancer screenings, menstrual disorders, hormone replacement therapy, contraception, and abortions,” Adams wrote online.
Alex Crockett, an ETSU Quillen College of Medicine student considering a career path as an OB/GYN, agrees that access to those services is needed.
“You think about access to contraceptives, you think about people who may have been sexually assaulted or just routine gynecologic care and obstetric care. These are such important services that patients need on a daily basis that can help them have safer pregnancies in the future,” said Crockett.
Crockett says he supports the clinic opening across the state line so abortion access will remain in the Tri-Cities.
“If it is going to be an issue of having none or making it a little further away, I think we need to have it as close to home as we can. To make sure our patients access those services related to abortion care, but also all the other reproductive health services they may offer there,” said Crockett.
News Channel 11 spoke with people in downtown Bristol Monday who wish the opposite, that the Bristol clinic would shut down entirely. None of these people wished to be interviewed for this story.
Though Tennessee’s trigger law stipulates an abortion ban can begin 30 days after the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Roe V. Wade, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery asked a federal court to allow Tennessee to ban some abortions now.
Slatery filed a motion Friday asking a federal court to allow Tennessee’s heartbeat abortion law to now be enforced.
In 2020, Gov. Bill Lee signed into law a “heartbeat abortion ban” outlawing abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, around six weeks into pregnancy on average. Right after the governor signed it into law, a federal court blocked the law from going into place, ruling it unconstitutional and unenforceable.
With Roe V. Wade overturned, the court sided with Attorney General Slatery, Tuesday.
Tennessee’s heartbeat abortion law is now enforceable in the state.
This is only law until Tennessee’s total abortion ban becomes enacted, which is expected in late July.