Memphis Center for Reproductive Health
Memphis Center for Reproductive Health is an independent non-profit abortion provider and the oldest independent center for reproductive health in Memphis, Tennessee.
MCRH was founded by Priscilla Chism in 1974 just after the US Supreme Court's historic Roe v Wade decision. The clinic was originally located in a building across the street from the Greyhound bus terminal in downtown Memphis. Many patients who came for services came from small towns throughout the Mid South by bus.
within 18 months a foundation loan allowed it to move to a remodeled former private home in Mid Town. It was the first women's clinic in the Mid South, opening in January 1975. In the early years following the Roe v. Wade decision there was prominent public support for the provision of quality abortion services. It was viewed even in Tennessee as a matter of women's public health, and the staff of the center included graduate students, several on internships, from the University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences, the University of Memphis, and Rhodes College. MCRH had a very prominent profile in the community, with an advisory committee of eminent leaders, professors, and officials.
Priscilla Chism developed a wide variety of public events and innovative programs, with official endorsement of the City of Memphis and the center was not controversial, nor did it experience picketing until years later, when anti choice forces emerged and organized. The center was very actively called on by the media and had extensive speaking engagements and a high profile at public schools and universities on a wide variety of topics related to women's health and sexuality.
The most prominent program it developed beyond its core medical services, which were often staffed by ob gyn residents from UTCHS, and which had prominent local gynecologists as medical directors, was the Memphis Sexual Assault Resources Center (now MSARC). This pioneered nationally the creation of the role of the SANE , Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, whose role included on call 24/7 services for victims of sexual assault, crisis counseling, prophylactic care to avoid pregnancy and STDs, expert collection of forensic evidence, ready expert testimony in prosecutions, and ongoing counseling. Priscilla Chism and Brenda A. Brown of the Memphis Police Department conceptualized and co authored, with the endorsement of Mayor Chandler and Gen. Jay Hubbard, Chief of Police, a grant which gained funding through DHEW, and its services continue to this day. In its first year of services the rates of cases dropped for lack of prosecution declined by a whopping 60 percent. The funding was obtained with the help of Senator Howard Baker, and the support of many prominent Memphians.
In May 2010, Choices received a $150,000 grant from the MAC AIDS Fund, and expanded its services and moved to a new and more prominent location on Poplar Avenue in Memphis. Previously called The Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, "Choices" was selected as an easier-to-remember title. The clinic is now directed by Rebecca Terrell, who sees her work as "an opportunity to make a difference in a field I thought was really important," and sees the new location as a place to help people achieve their reproductive health goals throughout the course of their lives "without embarrassment."
Services and facilities
Choices provides surgical and medical abortions, STD and STI treatment and testing, counseling and advice for abortion and adoption, PAP smears, sex education, fertility services, miscarriage management, emergency contraception, and guidance through miscarriage and menopause. Recently named a Ryan White provider, Choices also provides HIV/AIDS testing. The clinic plans to add prenatal care and midwife delivery services in the next few years. All Choices services are confidential.
Controversy and criticism
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Along with other Tennessee reproductive healthcare facilities, Choices faces state plans for a 2014 vote over a constitutional amendment which would eliminate abortion in Tennessee. Anti-abortion organizations such as the Family Action Council of Tennessee have accused Choices and other abortion providers of turning Tennessee into an "abortion destination" and continue to campaign for further restrictions on abortion procedures.
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Like many other abortion providers, Choices has experienced pro-life protestors at its doors, vandalism, and threats of violence; although visible opposition is currently limited to a few weekly protesters handing out leaflets and praying the rosary. In 2009, shortly after the murder of George Tiller, a bomb threat brought the police to Choices, but no bomb was found on the premises. A pending bill could require the clinic to publish the names of its doctors, which some pro-choice activists say puts their lives in danger.
- Hannah Sayle, "What's in a Name?", Memphis Fly-By, October 2011
- Anita Wadhwani, "At 40, Memphis abortion clinic gets bold", The Tennessean, May 2012
- "Medical Services", Choices.
- Anita Wadhwani, "Tennessee, with few restrictions, attracts out-of-state women seeking abortions", The Tennessean, May 2012
- "The facts about abortion in Tennessee"[permanent dead link], Family Action Council of Tennessee, 2012
- Jody Callahan, "Memphis bomb squad checks threat at Midtown abortion clinic", The Commercial Appeal, June 10, 2009
- "Tennessee abortion bill would require publishing names of doctors", The LA Times, March 19, 2012