NASHVILLE, Tennessee, April 21, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Less than one month after Congress passed its sweeping health care bill, Tennessee's Legislature has become the nation's first to make clear that abortion will not be a funded benefit in its health exchange programs.
Bipartisan majorities in both the state House (70-23) and the state Senate (27-3) easily approved language which 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."
"At the end of the day this is very simple," said House sponsor, Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), before House passage on April 12. "Do your constituents want their tax money going to kill unborn babies? It's as simple as that."
Senate sponsor Diane Black (R-Hendersonville) stated, "We must take every action possible to protect Tennessee from being a part of a plan that allows for funding abortions."
"We have worked for years to ensure that taxpayer money is not used for abortion services in Tennessee," added Black, "and we must fight back against this overreach of federal power."
Tennessee Right to Life commended both sponsors and their pro-life colleagues. "Tennessee is a strongly pro-life state, and with principled pro-life leadership in both chambers, we are finally able to restore some common sense balance to this state's policies," said Brian Harris, president of the state's oldest and largest pro-life organization.
"Until the voters are able to undo some of the damage brought by activist judges, there are few statutes that we can pass and enforce," Harris said, referencing the 2000 ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist, which identified a fundamental right to abortion in the Tennessee Constitution.
"We're hopeful, however, that the protection of Tennessee's taxpayers to not be forced to fund elective abortions is one that will clearly meet muster," said Harris.
The vote to remove abortion funding from government-backed health exchanges follows other abortion votes this session in which pro-life legislative majorities moved decisively, including passage of bills to defund Planned Parenthood, to require abortion providers to post the state's non-coercion policy and to bring a public vote on SJR 127 in 2014 allowing voters to decide whether or not the Tennessee Constitution protects a right to abortion.
"Having legislative leaders who actually represent the views and voices of their pro-life constituents has made all the difference," said Harris. "It also highlights the critical importance of next fall's elections here in Tennessee."
Americans United for Life, which drafted legislation for any state interested in opting out of the abortion mandate of President Obama's new health care law, has said that numerous states have expressed interest so far.
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Tennessee House Strikes Blow to ObamaCare Abortion Coverage