State Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) announced Wednesday that he has filed legislation directing TennCare officials to seek a Medicaid waiver to exclude facilities in Tennessee that perform elective abortions from receiving taxpayer money. The announcement was made at a press conference with House sponsor Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City) and numerous co-sponsors of the bill.
“Tennesseans do not want their hard-earned tax dollars going to abortion clinics,” said Senator Bell. “Allowing our tax dollars to go to abortion clinics, even though they supposedly are not used directly for abortions, helps pay for their operational costs. This is a practice known as cost-shifting and the practical effect is that it keeps clinics that perform elective abortions afloat at taxpayer expense.”
The Department of Finance and Administration estimates abortion providers have received almost $1 million in taxpayer funding from 2012-2017.
Senator Bell said under the administration of President Obama, states could not get waivers to exclude abortion providers, but he believes that this could change with President Donald Trump’s administration.
“We are asking that the current TennCare II waiver be amended to exclude facilities which perform elective abortions,” he said. “Texas and other states have already begun to seek waivers and we are optimistic that they will now be considered.”
The funds for other women’s health services, such as breast exams, cancer screenings and birth control, would not be affected by the proposal. The funds would be redirected from elective abortion clinics to other health care providers so women will continue to receive care. All of Tennessee’s 95 counties have identified community health centers and other providers aside from those who perform elective abortions, who meet criteria to receive taxpayer funding for other women’s health services.
Twenty-five of the Senate’s 33 members have signed on to co-sponsor the legislation.