Sunday, March 05, 2023

Tennessee bill would prevent government spending on abortions

By Jon Styf, The Center Square, Mar 3, 2023 - A bill to prevent local governments from spending taxpayer funds on abortions or travel out of state to get abortions passed a Tennessee Senate committee this week and will soon head to the full Senate.

The bill comes after Tennessee’s law banning abortions went into effect following the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Last year, the Metro Nashville council proposed a $500,000 grant to assist women getting an abortion outside of Tennessee but then amended the bill to make it a grant to Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi.

Tennessee Conservative News reported the plan was changed after “concerns from the Metro Department of Law that it would threaten Title X funding.”

Senate Bill 600 was recommended for passage by a 7-2 vote along party lines of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Sponsor Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, said the Tennessee Constitution allows the state to have authority over local governments as long as it does not violate a right guaranteed in the state’s constitution.

Hensley said the punishment for using those funds would be an audit finding for improper use of funds. “It is just improper usage of taxpayer funds to transport a pregnant woman across state lines for an abortion,” Hensley said.

Sen. London Lamar, D-Memphis, asked a series of questions on whether this would impact funding for county hospitals that perform life-saving abortions or nonprofits that assist in abortions for those who are a victim of rape.

Hensley said that the rule applies to local governments, not hospitals.

“Abortion is illegal in this state,” Hensley said. “So, if they are doing something illegal, they should not be using taxpayer funds.”

Lamar asked Hensley if he believed hospitals should perform life-saving abortions.

“I believe hospitals should do what they can do to save lives,” Hensley responded.

A companion bill, House Bill 90, is scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the House Cities & Counties Subcommittee.

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