Providers of abortion services are bracing themselves for Tennessee's so-called trigger ban to go into effect now that the Supreme County has overturned Roe vs. Wade, by considering options that include patient navigators who can help women obtain abortions in other states, as well as providing financial assistance to do so.
Tennessee's anti-abortion advocates are gearing up for the new landscape, too. Beyond the grassroots protest efforts at clinics is a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar network of organizations working to "rescue preborn children" from abortion.
The health centers have served as an embodiment of the movement in action and will continue to do so as the post-Roe landscape evolves.
Many use marketing strategies aimed at diverting the "abortion-minded woman."
One such "interceptor" group, Human Coalition, operates a telecare service in Knoxville that provides counseling and refers "abortion-determined women" to local health care providers that don't offer abortion services.
Human Coalition, a Texas-based nonprofit with a budget of nearly $19 million, operates in just a handful of states but says it has developed a national network of health care centers designed to reach women who are at high risk to abort.
“Our Telecare clinics and women’s clinics work to provide women with medical care and connect them to tangible material and financial assistance," said Jeff Bradford, president of Human Coalition, in an email last week to Knox News. "This is the future of the pro-life movement, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in Dobbs, and we are carrying out this mission right now."
Bradford said Human Coalition also operates Telecare clinics in the Memphis and Nashville areas that are staffed by local residents.
The state of Tennessee earmarked $3 million in this year's budget for Human Coalition. That money funded the call centers, according to the Associated Press.
Human Coalition did not provide specifics as to where, specifically, it refers pregnant women. There are two crisis pregnancy centers operating in Knox County, Catholic Charities Pregnancy Help Center and Hope Resource Center.
What services do pregnancy help centers offer?
Hope Resource Center, which operates out of a brick building near the University of Tennessee campus, touts itself as a "cost-free health care center for women offering medical care by licensed professionals for reproductive health concerns, education and connection with community resources."
The center says it equips women to make reproductive decisions, and its website highlights a "holistic" and compassionate approach. Hope Resource Center offers pregnancy testing, ultrasound imaging, STD testing and treatment, Pap tests and well-woman exams for free.
Hope Resource Center Executive Director Andrew Wood does not foresee a marked change in the center's operations since the news broke Friday of the Supreme Court decision.
"We're open today, we'll be open Monday," he said. "We've been serving the community for 25 years, we saw a need in our community and we stepped up. We'll get up come Monday morning and continue the work we've been called to."
So what does Hope Resource Center provide its pregnant patients once they give birth? Parenting classes that are both online and in person, mentoring and material assistance, said Wood.
"We throw 70 to 80 baby showers a year," he said. "Once they finish the classes, we throw a baby shower for them. They will get everything they need for the first six months, clothes, diapers, wipes."
Hope Resource Center already has seen an "uptick" in clients over the last six months, according to Wood, which he attributes to both Planned Parenthood and Catholic Charities' Pregnancy Help Center losing their facilities to fire.
"For folks that are in tough situations, they're looking for a place to go," he said.
Regardless of what happens after Roe v. Wade's removal, Wood said, his clinic's emphasis will be "how best can we serve the women in our community. We have to reach them, they have to know we're here. Those are conversations we've been having and will continue to have moving forward."
According to a Facebook post, the center has provided 823 medical appointments so far this year.
'We probably will be a lot busier'
Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, which administers a variety of programs including food pantries and permanent supportive housing, has six pregnancy help centers scattered through the region that steer pregnant people away from abortion. It also runs Project Rachel, which offers hope-based counseling for women post-abortion.
"We are trying to gear up" for post Roe v. Wade, said program leader Sandy Davidson. "We feel we probably will be a lot busier."
The Catholic church opposes all abortion services. "This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable," according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
While the center does offer free pregnancy testing, the focus is on providing post-pregnancy support for new parents with its Earn While You Learn program.
Earn While You Learn includes DVD classes that participants can take in exchange for “baby bucks” redeemable for items like car seats and diapers. Participants are enrolled from birth to 2 years and can choose from the more than 250 classes available on DVD – in labor and delivery, financial advice, relationship classes, infant and toddler care, potty training and teething.
"They’re wonderful lessons," Davidson said.
Catholic Charities has a 24-hour help line and recently reopened its adoption program, Davidson said. It provides referrals for rent, medical expenses, utilities and housing, has a lactation consultant and a car seat program.
"It’s a one-stop shop," Davidson said.
Catholic Charities offers services in Spanish and Swahili and recently started doing outreach to the Swahili-speaking community in Western Heights, Davidson said. On the medical side, the organization is planning to start offering ultrasounds and STD testing.
The program's capacity depends on the number of volunteers. They have more than 30 right now and about 150 clients, Davidson added.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Knoxville pregnancy crisis centers 'step up' services after Roe ruling