NASHVILLE, Tennessee – During welcome comments made to attendees of Planned Parenthood “Takes the Hill” day at the Tennessee legislature, Tennessee Advocates of Planned Parenthood Executive Director Francie Hunt said the organization is in partnership with Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC).
Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood (TAPP) arranged for a free bus Tuesday, February 19, so that advocates from Memphis and Jackson could join “a day of legislative skills training, meeting with your legislators, and attending committee hearings on behalf of Planned Parenthood.”
The same day, a group of about 50 pro-life grassroots advocates visited the Capitol to show their support for the Heartbeat Bill, as reported by The Tennessee Star.
Hunt told the group of about 30 that met in a Senate Hearing Room on the first floor of the Cordell Hull Building that “The timing of you being here could not be better.”
Hunt was referring to the fact that “two bills that we don’t like” would be heard in the House Public Health Subcommittee the following day, saying that “We’ll have some lead time to persuade them as much as possible.”
The first of the two bills they oppose, which Hunt said were talked about on the bus, are the “trigger bill,” which Hunt said, “would basically trigger an abortion ban here in Tennessee if Roe v. Wade is overturned either in whole or in part.” The second bill is “what’s called the Heartbeat Bill, which is essentially a six-week abortion ban.”
Hunt reviewed a list of other bills that TAPP is tracking, based on the “four main pillars that we always track as a national federation and that’s abortion, sex education, health care access and building strong families and communities.”
Also cited by Hunt was caption bill Senate Bill 1279 and companion HB 1238 sponsored by Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) and Representative Bruce Griffey (R-Paris). The bill would require verification of United States citizenship or lawful presence for each applicant 18 years of age or older who applies for prenatal care administered by the Department of Health and the special supplemental food program for women, infants and children administered by the Department of Health.
The bill is of interest, according to Hunt, because “We have an overlap here in this bill, where it’s both something that’s around immigration and reproductive and sexual health.”
Because it’s a caption bill, TAPP is really paying attention to it, according to Hunt, because “essentially what it would do is it could open the door to denying undocumented immigrants from getting any kind of health care, or it could do other things.”
In addition to the four main pillars, Hunt explained, “The way that we look at our support and opposition bills are the ones that we are in partnership with others.” Hunt continued, “Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood is a coalition member of the Healthy and Free Tennessee network,” and mentioned that attendees would be joining them for lunch that day.
Healthy and Free Tennessee has an extensive list of more than 50 coalition partners including American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, Americans United for Separation of Church and State Nashville Chapter, Tennessee Equality Project, and Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition.
Hunt said Healthy and Free Tennessee has “a whole array of bills and some of them overlap ours.”
Continuing, Hunt said “we’re also a member of Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition.” While TIRRC hasn’t yet posted their bills list, according to Hunt, “We’re in conversation just so we’re all kind of facing in the same direction when we’re up here on the hill.”
The partnership between Planned Parenthood and TIRRC is a contrast as one has as their first of four pillars the support of abortion while the other supports bringing in people from other countries.
On Facebook, TIRRC criticized the “anti-sanctuary city” bill from last year, sponsored by State Senator turned U.S. Congressman Mark Green (R-Clarksville) and State Representative Jay Reedy (R-Erin) as SB 2332 / HB 2315, saying it “threw our communities into fear and public agencies into confusion.” The group has “filed two bills to undo some of the most harmful provisions of HB 2315.”
TIRRC also called out the sponsor of the bill to help fund President Trumps’ border wall, “Freshman Tennessee Representative Bruce Griffey has already introduced a handful of extremist, racist bills into the Tennessee General Assembly.”
The February 8 Facebook post continued, “One creates a new tax to steal money from hardworking Tennesseans to pay for a wasteful border wall that not even Congress would pay for. We will be organizing our community to fight this and all bills that seek to harm our communities and state.”
Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood has another Take the Hill day scheduled for Tuesday, February 26, with a bus from Knoxville. That, coincidentally, is the same day the Heartbeat Bill HB 0077 will be heard in the House Health Committee at 9 a.m. in House Hearing Room I, after passing through the House Public Health Subcommittee Wednesday with the Ayes prevailing on voice vote.
Requesting to be recorded as voting No was freshman Representative Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville). Representative Larry Miller (D-Memphis) requested to be recorded as present, not voting.
Committee members other than the Heartbeat Bill’s sponsor, Representative Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), who are recorded as an Aye vote are Representatives Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro), and Sam Whitson (R-Franklin).
A full list of bills Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood is currently tracking can be found here.
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.