Tennessee’s abortion ban takes effect; expanded reproductive health, pregnancy and parenting resources available to university community

Tennessee’s ban on abortions took effect Thursday, Aug. 25. The law criminalizes all abortion but includes an affirmative legal defense for medical providers when the care provided was necessary to protect the life of the pregnant individual or to prevent substantial harm to their physical health.

The change supersedes an interim “heartbeat” bill that largely banned abortions after six weeks of gestational age, and comes a little over three months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, eliminating federal constitutional protection for abortion rights and leaving abortion laws to the states.

In anticipation of the ban, Vanderbilt has expanded reproductive health, pregnancy and parenting resources for students, faculty, staff and postdocs. On Wednesday, the university shared updates on its new paid parental leave program that, starting Sept. 1, will provide an additional six weeks of leave to staff.

Details will also be announced soon about the hiring of a new Reproductive Health and Parenting Resource Coordinator who will serve as the first point of contact for pregnant individuals at the university who need assistance and support. The coordinator, who is expected to be on board by Sept. 1, will engage in unbiased conversations and help coordinate care through campus offices and resources, including applications for financial assistance through the Employee Critical Support Fund and the Student Critical Support Fund. The funds are designed to provide one-time aid for unexpected expenses, including costs related to medical procedures not available in Tennessee. Details on how to apply will be shared in the coming weeks.

The expanded resources were informed by an initial set of recommendations from the university-wide task force that first convened in early June to focus on the impact of a statewide abortion ban, as well as by recommendations from the University Staff Advisory Council and committees convened as part of the university’s Future of Work initiative. The task force is continuing its work to make informed decisions that are inclusive of all members of the Vanderbilt community.

Information about the support resources is available on the task force’s webpage, where members of the Vanderbilt community can submit suggestions and feedback.