Planned parenting job postings in Chattanooga are spurring anti-abortion advocates into action

A job posting from Planned Parenthood to bring a community organizer to Chattanooga causes concern among local anti-abortion advocates, even though the organization says it has no plans to open a clinic in the area.

The community organizer is one of two roles Planned Parenthood is hiring in Chattanooga for, along with a health educator, said Savannah Bearden, communications director for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi.

Bearden said the positions will help organize expanded access to reproductive health supporters, including the strategies that will be discussed and how to advocate. Planned Parenthood hasn’t had an employee in Chattanooga since 2005, she said. In the years thereafter, employees from Knoxville or Nashville helped with the Chattanooga effort.

“East Tennessee in general is so important to our endeavors, and we have a lot of supporters in east Tennessee,” said Bearden. “Our supporters in Chattanooga have said they want more exposure. They want to be more involved in the things we do.”

But the possibility that a group such as Planned Parenthood, which supports access to safe and legal abortions, may have increased presence in Chattanooga is mobilizing opponents of the procedure.

Greater Chattanooga Right to Life is holding a congregation meeting in the Dominic building of the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. to organize against planned parenting. Candy Clepper, president of the group, urges people to join efforts “to ensure that Chattanooga stays free from the abortion industry”.

“With this deadly agenda, it is extremely worrying to learn that they want to expand their influence in our city,” Clepper said in an email. “The people of Chattanooga are not interested in the extreme Planned Parenthood agenda expanding to our community.”

Planned Parenthood said there are no plans to open a clinic in Chattanooga. The city has not had an abortion clinic for nearly 30 years.

Protests and civil disobedience began when the city’s first freestanding abortion clinic opened on Vance Road in 1975, two years after the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision by Roe v. Wade had legalized abortion.

Protesters chained to the door of the Chattanooga Women’s Clinic and held signs reading “Women are exploited by abortion,” newspaper photos from the period show. Anti-abortion activists found clients with negative experiences and repeatedly sued the clinic for negligence and misconduct.

The clinic that rented the space lost its location when the owner of the building went bankrupt and auctioned the property in 1993. Anti-abortion leaders raised enough money to buy the property and sack the clinic. The clinic was converted into the National Memorial to the Unborn, which opened a year later, in 1994.

Today, the nearest abortion clinics are more than 100 miles away from Chattanooga, either in Marietta, Georgia or Knoxville, Tennessee, making Chattanooga an “abortion desert,” according to a 2018 study by the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Despite efforts by anti-abortion groups to minimize the impact of Planned Parenthood in southeast Tennessee, groups like the Chattanooga Health Advocacy Team see the organization as a key partner in improving access to reproductive health care for native women.

Kim Osment, spokesman for CHAT, said there is a growing number of abortion law advocates in Chattanooga who have gone largely unheard because of the city’s history and political climate.

“There are a lot of people voting for a choice in the Chattanooga area, but it’s so hard to find your people, so to speak, who are more open about it,” Osment said. “So it would be of great benefit to have someone who could work with the community and help provide resources for the community and make those types of resources available to the entire population.”

Clepper said expanding Planned Parenthood in Chattanooga would be destructive and devastating.

“Chattanooga is better off without her kind of outreach,” she said.

Contact Wyatt Massey at [email protected] or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @ news4mass.

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