Tennessee

From 2016 to 2019, NIRH supported SisterReach, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in their work to improve access to LARC across the state of Tennessee using a reproductive justice framework. Through the lifetime of this project, this coalition successfully advocated to improve Medicaid reimbursement for immediate postpartum LARC in hospitals and worked to develop and implement systems that facilitated providing this service in hospitals across the state. The coalition worked with providers, health officials, and patients to increase awareness of LARC, patients’ rights to make their own decisions about contraception, and of methods of counseling and service provision that are patient-centered and anti-coercive. In 2019, SisterReach completed a series of community conversations across the state to understand how patients experience care, including any bias or contraceptive coercion, to further inform best practices for providers. In 2017, NIRH continued its support of SisterReach’s Youth Ambassadors (SYAs) program, a youth-led group that advocates for comprehensive sexuality education. Restrictive state policy on sexuality education and the state’s increasing reliance on biased and limited services of crisis pregnancy centers – fake clinics that deceive women – mean that many young people in Tennessee receive almost no sexual health education at all. NIRH supported SisterReach’s SYA program to run a campaign to repeal Shelby County’s “opt-in” sexuality education policy. With NIRH’s support, 20 SYAs received intensive training in reproductive justice, sexual health, and community service, including peer-to-peer education, skills for speaking with community members and elected officials, and campaign leadership. The SYAs went on deliver presentations to the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators and the Shelby County School Board on reforming state and local policies so families have to opt-out of receiving sex education as opposed to opting-in. The #CSE4TN campaign also included a strong faith-based narrative and SisterReach and its coalition partners engaged key stakeholders and the larger community at their ten “CSE Report Out” town hall events. In 2013, SisterReach recruited youth ambassadors to create the SYA program, and the ambassadors led the Choose2Wait initiative to support comprehensive sexuality education in Memphis. With NIRH’s support, SisterReach also conducted focus groups with people of color on sex education in Memphis and published the first report in Tennessee specifically focused on people of color and sex education.