Business and Economy Health Care Liberty and Justice

House Moves to Prevent ‘Exchanges’ from Covering Abortions

The House of Representatives approved a measure Monday night that seeks to ensure Tennessee tax dollars not be used to fund abortions under new federal health care overhaul.

Sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, the measure would prohibit coverage of abortions through the insurance exchanges established in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama last month.

“This issue boils down to one thing, and that is to make sure that Tennessee tax payers are not subsiding abortions as it pertains to these new government-subsidized health care exchanges,” Hill said Monday.

Lawmakers approved the measure 70-23, although some worried the language in the bill would exempt certain types of birth controls pills or devices.

“We’re on dangerous ground here because we’re trying to regulate an industry that hasn’t really begun,” said Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis.

House bill 2681 does not change the current state law which allows abortions. Women who access government-subsidized health insurance would have to pay for an abortion out of pocket, or through TennCare if they are indigent, Hill said.

Abortion coverage was a hot topic in Washington when lawmakers hammered out the health care reform language last month. President Obama signed an executive order promising that abortions be left out of the reforms’ health care coverage.

A line in the legislation ultimately left it up to states to ban abortion coverage in qualified health plans.

Press Releases

TN Right to Life Applauds House Action to Restrict Tax-Funding of Abortions

Press Release From Tennessee Right to Life, April 12, 2010:

(Nashville) In a dramatic show of opposition to tax-payer funding of abortion, a strong bi-partisan majority of pro-life House members passed HB 2681 which strictly limits the use of public funds in health exchanges mandated by the new federal health plan.

The language was passed 70-23 and 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.”

The state’s leading pro-life organization applauded the bill’s lopsided passage.

“Tennessee is a strongly pro-life state,” said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life. “Following years of a pro-abortion minority squelching the voices of the majority, our legislators have boldly expressed our state’s commitment to life,” Harris said. “We thank each pro-life member for their leadership and their courage.”

Right to Life singled out the bill’s sponsor, pro-life state Representative Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) for praise. “Regardless of the attacks brought by pro-abortion activists, Rep. Hill remained focused on the mission of protecting unborn children and providing real help and alternatives to women and families in need,” Harris said.

The Senate companion, SB 2686, will be heard in the Commerce committee on Wednesday where pro-life advocates hold a strong majority.


Lawmakers Pass Abortion ‘Coercion’ Signage Requirement

Both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly Wednesday passed legislation mandating that abortion providers post signs in their facilities declaring it illegal to force a woman into terminating a pregnancy.

However, the language in the two bills must still be reconciled before it can go to the governor.

A violation of the proposed law would result in a $2,500 fine against the facility for each day the signs are not posted and an abortion was performed at the facility. In addition, a physician would be subject to a $1,000 fine for each day he or she conducted an abortion and the signs were not posted.

The penalties would not apply if the abortion was performed in order to save the life of a pregnant woman.

The Senate passed SB 3812, sponsored by Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, on a vote of 28-2. The House passed its version, sponsored by Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, on a vote of 87-8.

Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga and Beverley Marrero, D-Memphis voted against the bill in the Senate. Casting votes against the House version were Democrats Karen Camper, Jeanne Richardson and Johnnie Turner of Memphis;  JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, and Nashville Democrats Sherry Jones, Mary Pruitt, Janis Baird Sontany and Mike Stewart.

While coercing or forcing a woman to have an abortion is currently illegal, supporters of the measure said the signs are needed because not all women considering an abortion know about the current law.

“A recent survey that was published by the Medical Science Monitor, which is an interdisciplinary medical journal, reported that up to 64 percent of women who received abortions were in some way influenced or coerced into having that abortion,” Johnson said on the floor of the Senate.

No one spoke in opposition to the legislation in either chamber, but during committee hearings, some legislators questioned the need for the legislation.

Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, for example, unsuccessfully attempted to tack on an amendment to the bill while it was in committee that would also make it illegal to coerce a woman out of having an abortion.

“If we honestly want to protect women and we want to be fair to women and we want to do what’s best for women…the sign should read you can’t be coerced either way, period,” she said during a hearing earlier this month.

The version passed by the House includes a provision not in the Senate bill — which Lynn characterized as a technical amendment — that would clean up the code in reference to juvenile laws, she said.

Under legislative rules, the bill now goes back to the Senate. If the Senate agrees to adopt the changes made by the House, the bill will go the governor’s desk. If they refuse to accept the changes, the bill will go to a joint conference committee to iron out the differences.

Lydia Lenker, spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Bredesen, said in an email that the Gov. Phil Bredesen wouldn’t indicate his opinion of the legislation while it is “still in play in the legislature.”

Press Releases

Haslam Thanks Pro-Life Women For Protecting Unborn

Press Release from Bill Haslam for Governor, March 31, 2010:

KNOXVILLE – Republican gubernatorial candidate and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam released the following statement after attending the Pro-Life Women’s Day on the Hill rally in Nashville today:

“As someone committed to the rights of the unborn, I applaud the efforts of Tennessee Right to Life and the Pro-Life Women’s Day on the Hill to end the practice of abortions in Tennessee. I believe in the sanctity of every human life, and as governor, I will continue to support the Pro-Life efforts and will make sure that no tax dollars go to funding abortions.”

To view Mayor Haslam’s new television ad, which focuses on his personal, spiritual and civic life, please visit his blog at

Bill Haslam is the two-term Mayor of Knoxville, re-elected in 2007 with 87% of the vote. A hardworking, conservative public servant, he led Knoxville to become one of the top ten metropolitan areas for business and expansion, while reducing the city’s debt, tripling the rainy day fund, and bringing property taxes to the lowest rate in 50 years. An executive leader with a proven record of success, he helped grow his family’s small business from 800 employees into one of Tennessee’s largest companies with 14,000 employees. His combination of executive and public service experience makes him uniquely qualified to be Tennessee’s next Governor. Haslam is the right person at the right time to lead Tennessee.

Bill and Crissy Haslam have two daughters, Annie and Leigh, and a son, Will, who resides in Knoxville with his wife, Hannah.

For more information on Bill Haslam, please visit

Health Care Liberty and Justice News

Legislature Prepares For Votes On Abortion ‘Coercion’ Signage

Abortion providers might have to post signs stating that it’s illegal to coerce women into having an abortion, according to legislation passed out of House and Senate committees this week.

But an amendment to make it illegal to force a woman out of an abortion failed in a House Health and Human Resources Committee Tuesday.

The committee ended up approving HB3301 but dropped the amendment proposed by Rep. Sherry Jones, a Democrat from Nashville.

“If we honestly want to protect women and we want to be fair to women and we want to do what’s best for women…the sign should read you can’t be coerced either way, period,” she said. “And that’s the right thing, the fair thing, the logical thing to do. Be sure (women) know the law is on both sides, not only one side.”

Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, who is sponsoring the bill, said Jones’ amendment was unnecessary.

“If your wording was on the sign…I don’t know that they would ever see the sign because they might not show up at the abortion clinic” because they wouldn’t get the abortion, she said.

“I don’t know that it would serve any effect at all,” Lynn continued. “But we know that women who are coerced (into getting an abortion) do show up at an abortion clinic.”

Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, said the amendment could have unintended consequences.

“As a parent, giving loving, parental advice to my child to not have an abortion, could I be prosecuted (under this amendment)?” he asked. “At what point does it become coercive rather than a loving parent?”

Jones countered with some questions of her own, asking if she would be charged with a crime if she “lovingly talked to my daughter and told her that this was not the time to have a child and she should have an abortion.”

The committee’s attorney said the answer to both representatives’ questions would depend on how a court would interpret the language “knowingly coerced, compelled or exercised duress.”

In the Senate Judiciary Committee, which also passed the measure Tuesday, Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, challenged Sen. Jack Johnson, the bill’s sponsor who is a Franklin Republican, on whether abortion is the only medical procedure he is concerned with protecting people from being coerced into.

“I think anyone being coerced into any medical procedure…is not looked upon with any favor,” said Johnson.

“Considering the vulnerable state that most women are in, in that unfortunate situation…whether it’s boyfriends, or husbands, or rape, or employers, or parents that coerce a young lady into maybe making a decision that will have long-term ramifications on her life and perhaps having that procedure done against her will,” he continued, “I think it’s perfectly reasonable that we would post this in a facility where those procedures are performed.”

Clinics covered by the legislation, if found in violation, would be subject to a separate fine for each day that the sign is not posted.

The measure now advances to the House and Senate chambers for a floor vote. If approved, the measure would need to be OK’d by the governor before it could become law.

Press Releases

Ramsey: Planned Parenthood Won’t Locate by Catholic High School

Press Release from Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville:

Nashville – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey today announced that Planned Parenthood will not be allowed to place an abortion clinic next door to Memphis Catholic High School. The state Health Services and Development Agency voted to allow the move last month after the Catholic Diocese of Memphis formally protested the move. At the time, Lt. Governor Ramsey criticized the HSDA’s action as shocking and insensitive.

“I am very pleased that the nation’s largest abortion provider will not be allowed to set up shop next door to Memphis Catholic High School,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “The HSDA’s action showed extremely poor judgment and I am very pleased at this outcome.”

Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region had received approval from the HSDA in December to relocate to 1750 Madison Avenue in Memphis. The location would have housed two surgical rooms where over 700 abortions would have been performed annually. Memphis Catholic High School as well as a nursing home for retired priests is located two-tenths of a mile from the site.

After the HSDA vote, Lt. Governor Ramsey directed the Senate Government Operations Committee to bring the HSDA before the committee and explain the action. On December 23, the property owner of the building located at 1750 Madison Avenue assured his tenants in a letter that “negotiations with Planned Parenthood of Memphis to occupy the Sixth floor have ceased and they will not be moving into our building.”

Lt. Governor Ramsey was recently named Tennessee Right to Life Legislator of the Year. In the 2009 legislative session, he led the fight to deny state funds to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Press Releases

Ramsey Criticizes Memphis Abortion Clinic Plan

Press Release from Sen. Ron Ramsey, 17 Dec. 2009:

Agency votes to locate abortion provider next to Catholic School

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today harshly criticized the Health Services and Development Agency for voting to locate a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic two-tenths of a mile from a Catholic high school and home for retired priests.

“It is shocking that the HSDA would do something so stupid and insensitive,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “They voted to allow over 700 abortions to be carried out annually next door to a Catholic school and home for retired priests. Abortion providers should not be located near any school, much less a religiously affiliated institution. The HSDA should revoke this action and apologize immediately.”

The Catholic Diocese of Memphis formally protested the HSDA action in a letter to the agency. The facility would consist of two surgical rooms where abortions would be performed at 1750 Madison Avenue in Memphis.

“I have asked the Chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee to bring the HSDA before the committee and explain this action,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “There is no excuse for a government entity to intentionally insult every pro-life citizen of Tennessee.”

Lt. Governor Ramsey was recently named Tennessee Right to Life Legislator of the Year. In the 2009 legislative session, he led the fight to deny state funds to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.