MURFREESBORO, Tenn., November 20, 2015– This week, Governor Haslam informed the General Assembly of the results of his administration’s research into Planned Parenthood (PP) and plans for legislation for the upcoming session. PP continues to be an issue placed among the forefront of concerns for our community since videos surfaced showing Planned Parenthood’s profiteering of aborted baby parts. Since the PP controversy, I have been in contact with other legislators and the Governor’s office on this matter on a frequent basis. I’d like to provide a brief update on what has occurred over the Summer and so far this Fall.
Over this last legislative Session, I inquired about the public funding for PP while their representatives provided testimony . At the time, PP stated that they didn’t receive public funding. During the discovery of national PP centers selling unborn baby parts, the public funding issue was revisited. As it turns out, while corroborating with Rep. Andy Holt and his staff over the summer, we were able to uncover state taxpayer dollars going to PP through TennCare, though apparently not technically for abortions. During their testimony, PP did admit to receiving federal taxpayer dollars during the committee hearing, but they were unable to confirm the amount.
Through corroboration with House Health Committee Chairman Rep. Cameron Sexton, we sent a formal letter of inquiry to PP. They did confirm that they received taxpayer dollars through TennCare, but denied the selling of any aborted tissue. Through Title 19, the Medicaid program, TennCare receives federal funding. Tennessee provides matching funds for TennCare at a ratio of one state dollar for every nine federal dollars. TennCare recipients can receive care from any provider that accepts TennCare. Because PP accepts TennCare, when Tennesseans on TennCare choose PP for services other than for abortion, Planned Parenthood receives payment from TennCare with a mixture of state and federal dollars.
It is my understanding that the state looked in to halting any TennCare dollars going to PP in the past, but were unable to do so without risking the loss of federal matching dollars for TennCare. Please note, it is, also, my understanding that TennCare dollars do not go to Planned Parenthood directly for abortion. That being said, any TennCare payments sent to PP still impacts their bottom line. Although, technically, PP receives Tennessee taxpayer dollars for services other than abortions, due to budgetary cost-shifting, any profit from TennCare payments could be construed as supporting abortion.
Over the Summer, the Government Operations Committee conducted a hearing to garner information from the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) about the regulatory environment surrounding abortions and how it relates to fetal tissue. I had been in contact with leadership and other legislators prior to the hearing. Following the hearing, I met with a representative from the Governor’s staff to discuss my concerns, the concerns of many in the district, as well as, options that we may consider. The meeting went well, and I have been in frequent contact with the Governor’s staff as he and his staff continue to look for solutions.
In addition to this meeting, I met with legal services to discuss some of my concerns surrounding the potential for selling aborted baby parts. Again, the Planned Parenthood facilities in Tennessee have denied doing this practice; however, I did discover an opportunity to improve upon accountability for patient care. I had a bill drafted and have been patiently waiting for Governor Haslam’s report. I am yet to present my bill to other legislators, but believe it may be a companion piece of legislation for Governor Haslam’s proposal.
In another instance, I worked with the Governor’s staff on addressing an issue with the Department of Health’s website as it relates to PP. Concerns arose from some constituents in that it was their belief that the website could be seen as Tennessee advertising for PP’s services. While county health care services are available online, I have worked to have the health care services presented in a neutral fashion. It should be noted that the TDH and the Governor’s staff responded to my request within a few hours.
On Wednesday, Governor Haslam released his report to the General Assembly. In it, the TDH has made filing a complaint against an abortion surgery center more accessible and transparent. The TDH has strengthened the record keeping requirements as it relates to the disposition of aborted remains. The requirement will provide a tracking mechanism to help ensure a proper and appropriate manner of disposition occurs.
Additionally, the TDH conducted unannounced inspections of four clinics. The report did not specify any specific violations nor issues with any compliance. I have asked for the results of the inspections. As of this moment, I have not had the opportunity to review the report.
Finally, Governor Haslam plans to propose legislation to improve the accountability and transparency for surgery centers performing abortions. Some measures include enhanced inspections, improved record keeping requirements, and prohibition of reimbursement of any costs associated with any transportation of aborted fetuses. As earlier stated, I have a bill that improves accountability for patient care. I will be working with our health committee and the Governor’s office on the legislation.
While finding solutions and addressing the issues presented by PP has provided various challenges, constituents should know that I will continue to work for the unborn in various ways, and that the Governor and his staff know where I stand on the issue.
In Rutherford County there is an organization in our community called Portico. Portico was formerly known as the “crisis pregnancy center”. You can read more about them HERE. Portico just received a mobile ultrasound unit in October to provide free ultrasounds for women in need. On October 6, I invited Governor Haslam and his staff to visit Murfreesboro in order to tour Portico’s facilities and see the new mobile ultrasound unit. During the luncheon, I reiterated that the many on the left often put forth the false narrative that there isn’t an alternative to abortion or PP. We have a facility in our own community that promotes women’s health, as well as, provides an alternative to abortion. If you are pro-life, please, check out Portico and help them out. Their mobile ultrasound will provide an invaluable service to women and the unborn, but since their services are free of charge, they need your financial help.
I believe I openness and transparency, and it is my hope that my updates help provide that service to District 48. As always, I am humbled an honored to be your state representative.