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Cohen Joins Opposition to GOP Proposal to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 21, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today joined U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Alma Adams (D-NC) at a rally this afternoon opposing yet another Republican attempt to subvert the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and undermine a woman’s constitutional right to make her own health care choices. NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue and Karen Finney also expressed their opposition to H.R. 36, which would ban abortions before the fetus is legally considered “viable” as determined by the Supreme Court, at today’s rally. Photos of the Congressman at today’s rally are availablehere, and video of the Congressman speaking out against this legislation on the House Floor earlier today is available here.

“Republicans know they can’t get past the Supreme Court’s ruling protecting a woman’s right to choose, so they are trying to go around it by creating an entirely new justification for banning abortion that has never been recognized before,” said Congressman Cohen. “This so-called ‘fetal pain ban’ proposal isn’t about fetal pain; it’s about outlawing abortions and repealing Roe v. Wade. Republicans have rushed this bill through the process without any opportunity to amend it, the legislation doesn’t have a meaningful exception even if the health of the mother is at risk and it would put victims of rape and incest in an impossible position. In timing this bill to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Republicans are transparently using drama messaging to appeal to their base at the expense women’s health and constitutional rights. Women’s rights shouldn’t be theater, they shouldn’t be taken lightly; we have to vote this bill down.”

President Barack Obama has stated that he will veto H.R. 36, which Republican leaders have rushed through the legislative process without an opportunity for amendments, if Congress sends it to his desk. Congressman Cohen decried the Republican effort to bypass regular order and rush the bill through the House at a hearing of the Rules Committee yesterday, video of which is available here. The bill bans abortions after 20 weeks with no meaningful exception to protect a woman’s health. It would would deny care to women in the most desperate of circumstances, force victims of rape and incest to file a police report in order to obtain care, and is a blatant attempt to chip away at a woman’s right to choose.

The bill runs flagrantly afoul of the clear constitutional rule on viability.  While many factors go into determining viability, and it can vary from case to case, it is generally acknowledged as not occurring until around 24 weeks.  The Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, struck down pre-viability abortion prohibitions. The Supreme Court has continued to uphold this holding in subsequent cases, but H.R. 36 would prohibit the procedure in many pre-viability situations.

Yes On 1 Campaign Announces Coordinators in Every TN County

Press release from the Yes On 1 Campaign; September 9, 2014: 

Nashville — Coordinators to win Amendment 1 have been announced in all 95 Tennessee counties according to Lorene Steffes, Coordinator for Community Education and Board Member of Yes on 1.org

“We are pleased to introduce the statewide grassroots leadership team which will guide our campaign to victory on November 4,” Steffes said.

“Yes on 1 is truly grateful to the women and men who have stepped up from every walk of life to provide county support and resources to spread the word about Amendment 1. With their help, Tennesseans are going to be well informed about our state’s heartbreaking status as an abortion destination and why we must vote YES in order to restore common sense protections in our state,” Steffes continued.

County leaders are working to coordinate local outreach including events, speaking, fundraising and get-out-the vote efforts. They will also serve as distribution points for yard signs and other YES on 1 materials.

“1 of every 4 abortions in our state is performed on a woman or girl from someplace else,” said Steffes. “We even lack the legal basis for licensing and inspecting facilities where abortions are performed. The severity of this matter has inspired these 95 leaders to step forward to win Amendment 1 in November, and we are grateful for their dedication and support.”

East Tennessee County Coordinators

Anderson County: Karen Vacaliuc
Bledsoe County: Bobbi Hurd
Blount County: Deb Maupin
Bradley County: Barbara Gilbert
Campbell County: Edwina Booth
Carter County: Jerome Cochran
Claiborne County: Alan Hall
Cocke County: Ashley Link
Cumberland County: Ann Sieffert
Fentress County: Kelly Goedicke
Grainger County: Marsha Sexton, Sharon Myers
Greene County: Nathan and Amy Holt, Donald and Georgianna Burchnell
Grundy County: Betty Cordes
Hamblen County: Logan Foshie
Hamilton County: Sharon White
Hancock County: Allison Gordon
Hawkins County: Tony Gordon
Jefferson County: Lori Wicker, Jessica Whitmill
Johnson County: Dan and Joan Pohlgeers
Knox County: Stacy Dunn
Loudon County: Kay Sheldon
Marion County: Candy Clepper
McMinn County: Ginger Malloy
Meigs County: Peggy Burnett
Monroe County: Sam Boone
Morgan County: Bob Brimi
Polk County: Patty Hensley
Rhea County: Lenita Sanders
Roane County: Judy Cooley
Scott County: Angela Morrow
Sevier County: Gene Williams
Sequatchie County: Debbie Chandler
Sullivan County: Dan and Joan Pohlgeers
Unicoi County: Dr. Charlene Thomas
Union County: Nathan Long
Van Buren County: Janet Burke
Washington County: Dan and Joan Pohlgeers

Middle Tennessee County Coordinators

Bedford County: Pam Cooper, Bobby Lemmon
Cannon County: Sharon Hay, Janet Paschal
Cheatham County: Jayne Cauthen
Clay County: Corrine Clements
Coffee County: Frances Arthur, Dr. Robert Reed
Davidson County: Christine Melton
DeKalb County: Jan Alexander
Dickson County: Kanda Mowbray
Franklin County: Yolande Gottfried
Giles County: Troy Heard
Hardin County: Tim Jerrolds, Sherry Schachle
Hickman County: Nelle King, Bonnie and Roy Crews
Jackson County: Beverly Crossman
Lawrence County: Clara Hollmann
Lewis County: Karen Rentschler
Lincoln County: Cheryl Albury
Macon County: Marcia Briggie
Marshall County: Sherry Ferguson
Maury County: Jack Coleman
Montgomery County: Regina Azzarra
Moore County: Marie Harmon
Overton County: Pastor John Copeland
Perry County: Melissa Goodwin
Pickett County: Sheila Donnelly, Nello Connor
Putnam County: Lois Irby
Robertson County: Susan Allen
Rutherford County: Gina Butterfield, Laura Newsom
Smith County: Ronnie Collins
Sumner County: Anna Anderson, Annette Carnes
Trousdale County: Juanita Pinzur
Warren County: Jeanne Ware
White County: Meagan Wilson
Wilson County: Trecia Dillingham
Williamson County: Erin Morel

West Tennessee County Coordinators

Benton County: Stephanie Daniel
Carroll County: Sue Crockett
Chester County: Lori Babin
Crockett County: Caren Jordan
Decatur County: Kurt Holbert
Dyer County: Peggy Eubanks
Fayette County: Pastor Ken Culver
Gibson County: Guinda Flippin
Hardeman County: Pat Pope
Haywood County: Melinda Chapman
Henderson County: Jenni Moffett
Henry County: Christi Cross
Houston County: Pamela Vance
Humphreys County: Martha Browning
Lake County: Dee Keissling
Lauderdale County: Barry Phillips
Madison County: Glen and Julie Gaugh
McNairy County: Jennie Graber
Obion County: Rhonda Moore
Stewart County: Angie Smith, Pamella Dill
Shelby County: Cathy Waterbury, Mae Yearwood
Tipton County: Diana Meinweiser
Wayne County: Chassity Martin
Weakley County: Beverly Carr, David Hawks

Ball Pushes Lamar for Response on Amendment 1 Vote

Press Release from the Gordon Ball for U.S. Senate Campaign, July 18, 2014:

Sen. Lamar Alexander was asked a simple question yesterday by Gordon Ball, democratic candidate for US Senate, on Fox Memphis 13. “How was Lamar going to vote on Amendment 1 when he returned from Washington?”

Alexander has declined to respond to media requests or to the candidate.

“This extreme amendment would give legislators unbridled control over what women can do with their bodies after they have been raped, victims of incest or if their lives are in jeopardy,” Ball said. “Private healthcare decisions should be made by a woman with her family, her faith and her doctor.”

A recent poll by Vanderbilt University revealed that more than 70 percent of Tennesseans are opposed to Amendment 1.

“This sets a dangerous precedent for women’s healthcare,” Ball added.”I asked a fair question, and believe Tennesseans deserve a straight answer. Lamar is a darling of the special interest PACs funding this attack on women’s rights, so he should be happy to explain why he is willing to force his ideological will on victims of rape and incest and women fighting for their lives.”

Tracy, Womick Postpone Ultrasound Bill in Favor of ‘Pro-Life’ Constitutional Amendment Initiative

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; March 6, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Representative Rick Womick (R-Rockvale) announced today they will not seek passage of a bill this year to require abortion providers show or describe an ultrasound image to a woman before the procedure can be performed. The lawmakers said they will focus on passage of Senator Joint Resolution (SJR) 127, a pivotal constitutional amendment initiative which will come before voters in 2014 that would allow the legislature to put abortion laws into place within the bounds of “Roe v. Wade.”

“This constitutional resolution is the cornerstone of future legislation to protect life in Tennessee,” said Senator Tracy. “We will be focusing all of our efforts on promoting its passage on the 2014 ballot.”

Tracy was a co-prime sponsor of SJR 127, which was passed by the General Assembly in the 106th and 107th General Assemblies. It addresses a State Supreme Court decision in 2000 that struck down provisions in Tennessee law allowing women to receive “informed consent” information about the surgery and to wait 48 hours before they receive an abortion. The state’s high court also ruled against a state requirement that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital. That ruling made Tennessee more liberal than the U.S. Supreme Court required in “Roe v. Wade” and made the right to an abortion a “fundamental right” in Tennessee. SJR 127, if adopted, provides that the right to an abortion is only protected under the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brian Harris, President of Tennessee Right to Life said, “Pro-life Tennesseans are especially grateful for Senator Tracy’s resolve to ensure that the focus is not distracted from what remains the single most important pro-life objective: public approval of SJR 127 by voters in 2014.”

“We are very blessed in Tennessee to have legislators who are firmly and unequivocally committed to life,” said Bobbie Patray, President of Tennessee’s chapter of Eagle Forum. “Tennessee Eagle Forum commends Senator Jim Tracy and Rep. Rick Womick for recognizing the foundational impact of SJR 127. They clearly understand the educational challenge before us, and we are grateful that they will be focusing their time and energy on the passage of this proposed amendment the State Constitution. Tennessee is an overwhelmingly pro-life state, and they are setting an example that we hope the voters will follow as we approach the vote in November of 2014!”

“As the original sponsor of SJR 127, I’ve always had the strong support of Senator Tracy and Rep. Womick, who I didn’t get to serve with, is cut from the same cloth, added David Fowler, President of FACT (Family Action Council of Tennessee). “I applaud their desire that all pro-life efforts for the next year be focused on the most important pro-life issue in Tennessee history, the passage of SJR 127. I appreciate their leadership in making sure that nothing distracts from that overarching objective upon which all pro-life legislation in the future depends.”

“Given the fact that most abortion clinics in Tennessee already administer an ultrasound before performing an abortion, it only makes sense that we as legislators should be allowed to ensure that the pregnant mother is given the opportunity to see the video and hear the heartbeat,” added Representative Womick. “Actively seeking adoption of SJR 127 to our State Constitution will afford lawmakers that opportunity.”

TN Right to Life Praises Legislative Push for ‘Safer Climate for Abortion-Vulnerable Women’

Press Release from Tennessee Right to Life; April 2, 2012:

In a state where Courts have claimed that abortion facilities do not have to be licensed, members of Tennessee’s state House took steps today to create a safer climate for abortion-vulnerable women by requiring that physicians performing abortions must have hospital admitting privileges in the same community. In the event of complications following an abortion, a woman will be better assured of receiving post-abortion care from the physician responsible and knowledgeable of her specific condition and health history.

Pro-life physician Brent Boles spoke to the urgent need for such provisions in light of the state’s draconian pro-abortion policy under Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist and subsequent rulings claiming that laws requiring regulation and inspection of abortion facilities violate the supposed fundamental ‘right to abortion’ in the Tennessee Constitution.

“Currently, abortion facilities in Tennessee frequently do not provide any resource for patients to receive help or have questions answered after hours or on weekends. Patients are left to fend for themselves. They present to emergency rooms all over the state and they call GYN offices where the providers are not abortion providers and have no experience providing abortion services and they need help,” Boles said.

“Complications of any procedure are best managed by those providers with the most experience in the particular field,” said Boles. “Complications of abortion are best managed by abortion providers.”

Tennessee Right to Life urges pro-life Tennesseans to express appreciation to the 72 members of the state House who supported H.B. 3808, and especially to sponsor Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough.) The bill now moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee,S.B. 3323, where it is sponsored by longtime pro-life leader, Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mount Juliet.)

To view the full House of Representatives debate, visit http://tnga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=196&clip_id=5264 and click on HB3808.

Possible Fix to GOP’s ‘Family Planning’ Budget Flub

The Nashville-Davidson Metro Health Department has agreed to accept the full amount of its share of federal funding for family planning assistance, thus eliminating any funding Planned Parenthood would receive through the state to provide services in that area.

The move comes on the heels of a request by the Tennessee Department of Health commissioner, who had asked county health departments to expand family planning services, which would subsequently cut off payments to Planned Parenthood, a third-party nonprofit contractor that currently aids in that capacity.

The request was made at the direction of Gov. Bill Haslam, who sought to halt the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood.

Prominent Republican elected leaders in the General Assembly say their long-running desire to defund the nonprofit abortion provider was accidentally thwarted when language preventing the move inexplicably showed up in the final version of the budget the Legislature passed last month.

The Memphis Department of Health — the only other Tennessee jurisdiction with a Planned Parenthood facility that receives Title X federal government funding — has not yet committed to expanding operations in exchange for additional dollars but is asking for more time to make a decision, according to a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Health.

The $359,000 boost will bring Metro Nashville’s health department budget for family planning services up to $894,700, according to a department spokesman, enabling the agency to take on more clients or seek out other clinics in the community to handle the overflow.

If Memphis accepts the federal funds, its same budget will climb to $1.345 million.

Gov. Haslam said this week his office was looking into options for eliminating government funding for Planned Parenthood, like the Republican-led Legislature intended. However, he said he does not believe he has the authority to cut $1.1 million in federal dollars to the independent clinics with a line-item veto.

Planned Parenthood offers women health care, birth control and STD counseling and medical services. And while U.S. law prohibits national tax dollars from directly funding abortions, the clinics run by the federally funded nonprofit do provide them.

Activists with Tennessee Right to Life wanted the governor to direct federal family-planning dollars solely to local health departments, so they may expand their operations instead of outsourcing to third-party nonprofit providers like Planned Parenthood.

“Our position has been for the governor, who ran as a pro-life candidate who specifically addressed this issue in 2010 as a candidate, to fulfill his campaign commitment,” said Brian Harrison, president of Tennessee Right to Life.

The group this week encouraged its network of abortion opponents to call and e-mail the governor, demanding he find a way to cut public funds to Planned Parenthood.

“To say that the public subsidy (for Planned Parenthood) is not assisting in the abortion-end of their business doesn’t pass the common-sense test, obviously,” said Harris.

Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, denounced the effort to strip government funding from his organization.

“It’s pretty shocking that the people who are so obsessed with abortion are willing to sacrifice women’s health,” said Teague, who added that the centers will now have to charge women more money for health care.

Ranking Republican lawmakers in the Tennessee General Assembly aren’t inclined to reveal exactly how Planned Parenthood got “re-funded” in the rush to close out the session last month — a development that left Knoxville Sen. Stacey Campfield confused and angry.

“I’ve never seen anything like this happen in the past — where somebody just adds in wording to the budget without adding an amendment, without even the sponsor knowing about it,” said Campfield, who spearheaded the effort to deprive Planned Parenthood of government funding.

“Obviously it was done intentionally,” wrote Campfield in a blog post expressing his dismay.

Gerald McCormick, the House Republican Leader, says he doubts what happened was illegal or done in a spirit of contempt for Tennessee’s legislative processes.

“I don’t think there was anything sinister. It was just a technical correction,” he said. “I think it was an innocent maneuver.”

“Both these guys that I talked to are very much pro-life, and I don’t think they would do anything to sabotage anything in that movement,” McCormick said of the Senate lawmakers he believes are responsible.

Mark Norris, the Senate Republican leader, said he knew nothing of Planned Parenthood funding being reinserted in the budget.

Nor does he seem to really care how it got there. “Some people would say it’s a big conspiracy,” he said, adding that he isn’t particularly interested in “whodunit.”

“The main thing to me is the health care needs of these women who may disdain Planned Parenthood as much as I do,” said Norris. “Their health care needs need to be met.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, issued an ambiguous joint statement late on the Friday before the Memorial Day holiday weekend seemingly defending the decision to add back the abortion-provider’s government funding, but without taking responsibility for it or naming the lawmakers who directed the maneuver.

Ramsey and Harwell said “confusion” over the funding was “unfortunate,” but the move was legally necessary.

“The Office of Legal Services advised House and Senate leadership that it is unconstitutional to amend general law through the appropriations bill (Article II, Section 17), an interpretation which would have put the entire budget document in jeopardy,” the Harwell-Ramsey statement said. “It was not our intent to allow funding for Planned Parenthood. Our majority in the General Assembly clearly meant to defund them.”

Upon learning Metro Nashville’s health department would take over the federal funding normally sent to Planned Parenthood, Lt. Gov. Ramsey congratulated the governor on the decision.

“I was proud to lead the charge to turn over family planning services to the county health departments effectively defunding the organization in 93 out of 95 counties. I’d like to praise the Governor for working to completely turn off the spigot of taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood,” said the Blountville Republican in a press release.

Harwell told TNReport the Legislature took the wrong approach in trying to defund Planned Parenthood in the final days of the Legislative session.

“Clearly we know that the members’ intentions were good,” said the House speaker. “I think the way that we attempted to go about doing it was not the correct way. You cannot change general law through the appropriations bill. And therefore we had to make the change that we did.”

Ramsey Congratulates Haslam on Efforts to ‘Defund’ Planned Parenthood

Press Release from Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey; June 10, 2011:

Davidson County severs ties, Shelby expected to follow

(Nashville) – Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R – Blountville) praised the work of Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Health for moving to administratively defund Planned Parenthood.

It was announced today that Davidson County is ending its contract with the organization and assuming control of all family planning services. Shelby County is also expected to begin the process of transitioning away from its Planned Parenthood contract.

“We are at long last moving towards the final stages of the Planned Parenthood shell game,” said Lt. Gov. Ramsey. “It has always been the ambition of Republicans in the legislature to defund this organization. I was proud to lead the charge to turn over family planning services to the county health departments effectively defunding the organization in 93 out of 95 counties. I’d like to praise the Governor for working to completely turn off the spigot of taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood.”

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the country. While no state funds have gone to fund abortion, health departments have in the past contracted family planning services to Planned Parenthood. Two years ago, the General Assembly passed a law handing over family planning responsibilities to county health departments. Unfortunately, both Shelby and Davidson Counties continued to contract with Planned Parenthood. The decisions by this final two health department represent the final vestiges of state collaboration with Planned Parenthood.

Harwell’s End-of-Session Recap

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, Posted the Following Letter on Facebook, June 3, 2011:

The first session of the 107th General Assembly adjourned late Saturday night, May 21st, after we aggressively worked the last several days to finish our business. We have a long list of accomplishments to point to, proving that it does matter who governs.

Governor Bill Haslam, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and I were united in our belief that in order to make government sustainable, we had to transform the way we did business. We made significant progress this year reducing the size of government, paving the way for job creation, and reforming education.

In addition, we adjourned earlier than we have in the past couple of decades. Compared to last year, our early adjournment saved taxpayers nearly half a million dollars in legislative operational expenses. We have shown that we take the responsibility of governing very seriously, and we will stay true to our principles as we do so.

Our top priority was a balanced budget with no new taxes or tax increases. This year’s budget is $1.2 billion less than last year’s. This includes $82.2 million in specific recurring reductions. The budget also fully funds education, and tucks money away in the Rainy Day Fund for the first time in three years, raising it to $327.7 million.

We had many accomplishments this year, including but not limited to the following:

  • Tort reform – Republicans have also fought for years to see passage of comprehensive tort reform legislation, and this year we were successful in passing a bill that will pave the way for jobs in Tennessee. This legislation will create an environment of predictability and certainty for businesses as they look to expand.
  • Tenure Reform – Our goal is to make sure our teachers are equipped with the best tools possible to educate Tennessee students. We want an effective teacher in front of every classroom, and we want those who are excelling to be rewarded. This proposal is absolutely key to education reform.
  • Charter Schools – Charter schools have a proven track record in Tennessee, and I am delighted that we are giving this opportunity to even more students. Every student in the state of Tennessee deserves the very best we have to offer in education, and charter schools play a huge role in reaching that goal.
  • Collaborative Conferencing – The legislature also acted on a bill that repealed the Education Professional Negotiations Act and moved to a collaborative bargaining process that will open a direct line of communication between teachers, administrators and school boards.
  • Reduction of Meth Amphetamines – We are always trying to stay one step ahead of those who manufacture meth, which is destroying our communities. Utilizing this tracking system will curb the ability of criminals to obtain key ingredients for meth, while not increasing the burden to consumers who need pseudoephedrine.
  • Election Integrity – To ensure the integrity of our elections, the legislature passed a bill to require photo identification to vote. This measure will reduce voter fraud, and make every vote count.
  • SJR 127 – The constitutional amendment will restore the right of Tennesseans to repeal or enact laws governing abortions within federal limits through their elected representatives.
  • E-Verify – This bill helps to ensure that those working in Tennessee are here legally. Illegal immigration has a large financial impact on taxpayers, and this legislation will address this problem.
  • Elimination of a dozen subcommittees – The principles of a limited and more efficient government were a priority this year. To that end, I eliminated a dozen subcommittees that I felt were duplicitous, a reform that helped us to work more efficiently.
  • Elimination of redundant committees – In times of economic hardship, taxpayers demand and deserve state government to be streamlined. To that end, we eliminated 11 “oversight” committees that duplicated the work of standing committees, saving taxpayer dollars.

We started this year with a Republican governor, and strong majorities in both chambers–for the first time in the history of our state. We set forth ambitious proposals for job creation and better schools, and due to the hard work of each state representative, we have done that. This was a very successful year.

As always, I appreciate your support. It was an honor to serve as Speaker of the House, and experience that was both humbling and rewarding. Thank you for placing your trust in me, and let me know if I can ever do anything to assist you.

Sincerely,

Beth

Ramsey Criticizes Bredesen for Not Signing Prohibition on Tax-Funded Abortions

Statement from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, May 5, 2010:

“I am extremely disappointed that Governor Bredesen declined to sign Senate Bill 2686, which prohibits taxpayer funded abortion in the federally mandated health care exchanges created by Congress and President Obama. Tennessee was the first state in the nation to pass this legislation and now other states are following suit because Washington should not be dictating this policy to Tennessee. Tax dollars should never be used for abortion and I am very pleased this law will take effect immediately even though the Governor chose not to sign it.”

TN Ban on Federal Abortion-Funding to Take Effect Without Bredesen’s Signature

Press Release from Tennessee Right to Life, May 5, 2010:

Without comment, Governor Bredesen has refused to sign legislation barring abortion as a funded benefit in new federally mandated health care exchanges. Still, since no veto was issued, the protective policy takes effect immediately. Tennessee law allows the Governor to sign a bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

HB 2681 / SB 2686 by pro-life Rep. Matthew Hill and pro-life Sen. Diane Black states:

No health care plan required to be established in this state through an exchange pursuant to federal health care reform legislation enacted by the 111th Congress shall offer coverage for abortion services.

It passed the state House 70-23 and the state Senate 27-3.

Tennessee’s General Assembly was the nation’s first to pass legislation making clear that abortion would not be included as a benefit in federally required health care exchanges. Action was delayed until today as Governor Bredesen refused to sign the bill into law. In the interim, Arizona’s Legislature passed similar legislation which was quickly signed into law by their pro-life Governor Jan Brewer, making Arizona the first state to opt out of the abortion-funding mandates.

Tennessee Right to Life has praised legislators for their work this session to protect human life, particularly leadership of both the state House and state Senate.

“Pro-life citizens around the state are grateful to our new House Speaker, Kent Williams, for making the protection of life a priority, just as he said he would,” commented Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life. “And without the principled counsel and long time leadership of Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, this session’s victories for life would never have been realized,” Harris continued.

Passage of the ‘abortion opt out’ bill follows easy passage this session of bills removing priority status from abortion-provider Planned Parenthood, redirecting family planning funds to local health departments which do not perform abortions, required posting of the state’s non-coercion policy in private offices and facilities which perform abortions, and first passage of SJR 127, a resolution requiring a public vote in 2014 to make the Tennessee Constitution neutral once again on the matter of abortion.