NASHVILLE – In a press conference held the same day he filed a bill to put an end to Tennessee taxpayer dollars funding abortion clinics, State Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City) appeared with Senate sponsor Mike Bell (R-Riceville), and debunked the narrative that Tennessee abortion providers are fully defunded.
“The fact is,” Matlock said, accompanied by 20 legislators explained to members of the news media, “through the form of TennCare reimbursements, abortion providers still receive some state taxpayer money.”
Through the required 90-10 federal-state match, over $1 million has been paid to these facilities over the past six years, according to Matlock. It’s “our money, [so] we should have a say where it goes,” he said.
House Bill 2251 instructs the Commissioner of Finance & Administration “to seek a Medicaid waiver under the current TennCare II waiver to be able to exclude providers who perform elective abortions from receiving taxpayer dollars.”
“We argue that these dollars do, in fact, support abortion clinics and, therefore, abortion.” As such, Matlock vowed, “We will see this bill through, and end taxpayer support of abortion facilities.”
The House bill has 22 co-sponsors, including Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) who spoke of her long-standing pro-life position and support of the bill. Confirming that the bill would in no way affect the availability of affordable health care, including mammograms, prenatal care, and every other type of medical need for low-income women, Harwell headed off the typical opposition by saying that “We, as Republicans, are 100 percent in support of women’s health.”
Senator Bell, contacted several weeks before by Representative Matlock about carrying the bill, expressed his appreciation for the current Trump administration that “has opened the doors to the states to request Medicaid waivers.”
House Majority Assistant Floor Leader, Ron Gant (R-Rossville), echoed the comments of the other speakers while also making the case. “We feel strongly that Tennessee should lead the nation in this fight, because the overwhelming majority of our citizens respect the right to life,” he said.
Standing with bill sponsors Representative Matlock and Senator Bill, in addition to Speaker Harwell were Representatives Debra Moody (R-Covington), Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster), Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville), David Hawk (R-Greeneville), John Crawford (R-Kingsport), Andy Holt (R-Dresden), Courtney Rogers (R-Goodlettsville), Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro), Glen Casada (R-Franklin), Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), Tim Wirgau (R-Buchanan), David Byrd (R-Waynesboro), Sheila Butt (R-Columbia), Ron Gant (R-Rossville), Tilman Goins (R-Morristown) and John DeBerry (D-Memphis) as well as Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald).
Matlock’s bill was filed the same day that the Heartbeat Bill passed its first hurdle in the House Health Subcommittee, as reported by The Tennessee Star.
To get further information on and follow the bill, go here.
The full text of the comments made by Representative Matlock, Speaker Beth Harwell, Senator Bell and Representative Gant can be read below.
The time has come to put an end to taxpayer assistance of abortion clinics. They can exist on fees for services and on private donations, but they should not be operating with hard-working Tennesseans’ tax dollars.
The narrative exists that we have fully defunded abortion providers from receiving Tennessee taxpayer dollars.
The fact is that, through the form of TennCare reimbursements, abortion providers still receive some state taxpayer money. Over the past six years, the state and federal government has paid over ONE MILLION dollars to these facilities in Tennessee.
Family planning dollars come from Medicaid (called TennCare), which Tennessee is required to pay at a 90-10 federal-state match rate.
This morning I filed House Bill 2251, which would instruct the Commissioner of Finance & Administration to seek a Medicaid waiver under the current TennCare II waiver to be able to exclude providers who perform elective abortions from receiving taxpayer dollars. We argue that these dollars do in fact support abortion clinics, and therefore, abortion.
It’s our money. We should have a say where it goes.
We will see this bill through, and end Tennessee taxpayer support of abortion facilities.
House Speaker Beth Harwell:
First, let me start by saying, we as Republicans are 100% in support of women’s health. We feel strongly in helping low income women receive affordable healthcare, including mammograms, prenatal care, and every other type of medical need they may have. This bill would in no way affect the availability of any of these services in Tennessee.
We are blessed in Tennessee with 89 wonderful county health clinics and 6 municipal health departments, along with world-class hospitals, non-profits and religious organizations that offer every kind of care a woman may need.
I have been a strong pro-life advocate during my entire tenure as a state representative, including Amendment 1, and I’m supportive of this measure. I appreciate Rep. Matlock and Sen. Bell bringing this legislation.
Senator Mike Bell:
Thank you Representative Matlock and Speaker Harwell and Speaker Harwell for your strong continued support throughout your career for this issue.
Representative Matlock contacted me several weeks ago about carrying this bill and not only did I tell him I would, but I’m excited to. As he mentioned, for years, we have been telling in error that we have defunded abortion providers at the state level, but we know that we have not. When you look at the federal flow-through dollars that are attached to Medicaid, again what we call TennCare.
We are very pleased that the current administration, the Trump administration has opened the doors to the states to request Medicaid waivers. And that is what this bill will do: require our Commissioner of F&A (Finance and Administration) to request a Medicaid waiver to allow us as a state to be able to not send the Tennessee taxpayer money to these providers of abortion and abortion services. Thank you.
Representative Ron Gant:
Let me just reiterate that this legislations aims at protecting the sanctity of life by eliminating taxpayer funding to facilities that perform elective abortions. It does not impact the availability of other critical healthcare services offered to Tennessee women.
According to the Department of Finance and Administration, providers across our state have received almost $1 million in funding from 2012 to 2017. As a republican leader, I believe we must continue our efforts in order to strengthen Tennessee’s abortion laws.
It’s an honor to support Representative Matlock in his efforts to protect our most innocent. I am proud that so many of my Republican colleagues are here and have also demonstrated their support for this measure that enhances and further protects Tennessee’s pro-life stance.
Texas and other states have begun to submit Medicaid waivers to HHS to exclude abortion providers from receiving Medicaid reimbursements. We feel strongly that Tennessee should lead the nation in this fight, because the overwhelming majority of our citizens respect the right to life.
We are hopeful that this waiver will be accepted by the administration and want to thank them for their dedication to respecting life at all stages.