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Tenn. Sen. Baffled by Amendment Nullifying His Attempt To Defund Planned Parenthood

Tenn. Sen. Baffled by Amendment Nullifying His Attempt To Defund Planned Parenthood

May 31, 2011 — Tennessee Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) thought he successfully amended a state budget bill to cut off about $1.1 million in family planning funding to Planned Parenthood, but he later discovered that opponents added another amendment essentially nullifying his provision, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. Now Campfield and Tennessee Right to Life, which supported his amendment, are trying to determine whether Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has line-item veto authority to eliminate the counter amendment.

The state Senate and House passed the $30.8 billion state budget earlier this month and have since adjourned for this fiscal year. Campfield's amendment would block $747,900 in annual Title X family planning funds to Planned Parenthood for the Greater Memphis Region and $335,000 to the Planned Parenthood Nashville Health Center. The money, which cannot be used for abortion services, provides low-income residents with medical exams, cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and other care.

In a blog post published on Wednesday, Campfield wrote that he is trying to figure out what happened, adding, "I was quite upset as we had worked for weeks to get the wording right for a budget amendment and the language put in makes that language legally questionable." He has not asked Haslam to veto the counter amendment but believes the governor should do so. Haslam said he has not thought about a veto, adding, "To me, obviously something went wrong in the legislative process, which [state lawmakers] need to straighten up themselves" (Locker, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 5/25).

Amendment Threatens Critical Women's Health Services, Editorial States

The fact that Planned Parenthood includes abortion among its services "has made the agency, which runs on a combination of public and private funds, a lightning rod in the effort to deprive women of their reproductive rights," a Memphis Commercial Appeal editorial states, citing Campfield's amendment as an example.

The amendment could "spell the end of medical exams, cancer screenings, tests and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, family planning, counseling and birth control services for about 5,000 low-income residents [of Memphis] every year." The editorial estimates that for the county health department to handle demand for family planning services, it would need six to 12 months to prepare and a "substantially larger grant from the state than the $1.345 million currently being spent" on family planning.

"If reason prevails, that and federal court rulings will ultimately put the brakes on defunding efforts in Tennessee," according to the editorial. However, it concludes, "the potentially crippling ideological attack on an organization that provides vital health care services ... is almost sure to continue" (Memphis Commercial Appeal, 5/26).