An effort to defund Planned Parenthood in Tennessee will also cut off Medicaid reimbursements to other health care providers in the state. The federal government has begun reviewing the new restriction and started taking public comments on Friday.
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, was approved by the Tennessee General Assembly this year (download here) and signed into law. The measure was intended to target Planned Parenthood and bar its clinics from receiving government money — even for family planning or cancer screenings.
The legislation cites "elective abortion providers" as the entities that should lose reimbursement. But the law is being more broadly interpreted by the state to mean that any organization that provides more than 50 abortions a year — even in instances of rape, incest or the health of the mother — will no longer be able to accept Medicaid insurance, known as TennCare in the state.
"It's all abortions," says TennCare spokesperson Sarah Tanksley.
The definition in the new law includes several providers aside from Planned Parenthood, a total of seven, Tanksley says. But she's not at liberty to say who.
"I cannot disclose that," she says. "Under state law, that is confidential information about reports made to the state regarding abortions, and the identity of the providers is confidential."
The state had its own public feedback period and took in more than 6,000 comments (which can be viewed here, password 'comments'). Most are form letters in opposition to the new rule that mention Planned Parenthood by name.
The federal government will take input (here) for the next month and then decide whether to approve the ban on reimbursing any kind of services at an abortion provider. The option is only available to states like Tennessee after the Trump administration revoked rules under President Obama that discouraged excluding abortion providers from state-based Medicaid programs.
States from Texas to Ohio have made efforts to "defund" Planned Parenthood, but most have been held up either by bureacratic reviews or court challenges.