Senate sends ‘defund Planned Parenthood’ bill to governor

The state Senate Thursday approved and sent to the governor a bill promoted as “defunding” Planned Parenthood. It requires TennCare officials to submit a waiver request to the federal government for ending any payments to “elective abortion providers’ – even if those payments are for health care services other than abortions.

The bill (HB2251, as amended) was approved 24-2 in the Senate with Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) as sponsor. It was approved by the House 71-17 on March 13 with Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City) as sponsor.

Matlock, who is running for the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District, has actively promoted his role in pushing the bill on his campaign website. Excerpt from a press release there posted after House passage:

“It’s a huge win for Tennessee taxpayers who believe in the sanctity of life,” said Matlock. “For years, I’ve been fighting to defund Planned Parenthood. Today, we’re that much closer, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful to all who’ve stood with me,” said Matlock. “The forced relationship of Christians and Planned Parenthood is about to come to an end.”

The legislation has an amendment that makes an exemption for hospitals performing medically necessary abortions when needed to save the life of the mother.

“I’m very grateful to President Trump’s administration for working closely with my office on this legislation,” said Matlock.

Excerpt from The Tennessean report on Senate passage:

“We have dozens of other medical clinics,” Bell said. “This is not a cut. It is the policy of the state to favor child birth as an integral part of the health and the welfare of the state.”

But Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, criticized a part of the measure that would also cut non-abortion health care services provided at some locations where elective abortions are performed.

He and Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, said that although the bill seeks to prevent abortions, the proposal could lead to more abortions as it could could prevent some women from receiving medical services at their current providers.

“This bill is trying to make a statement about abortions at the expense of causing other abortions,” Yarbro said.

“This bill does not limit funding for abortion at all,” Harris said. “What this bill does is limit funding for other health care services. Those services would dry up.”

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, then asked the sponsor to clarify whether the bill would eliminate any funding.

Bell responded that no funds would be eliminated, only redirected.

He said health care providers that would stop receiving funding if the measure passes, could stop providing abortions and not be affected.

“This bill is a statement,” Bell said. “It’s a statement from this legislative body. It’s a statement from the people of Tennessee, that we want our money to stop going to providers that perform elective abortions.”

UPDATE/Note: Only two Democrats voted for the bill, Sen. Reginald Tate of Memphis and Rep. John Mark Windle of Livingston. The Commercial Appeal reports in a follow-up story that Tate got some criticism over his vote, HERE.

 

 

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