June 1, 2011 — Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature have decided to forgo efforts to defund Planned Parenthood through an amendment to the state budget after they were advised that the measure is unconstitutional, according to a joint statement released last week by Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey (R) and House Speaker Beth Harwell (R), the Knoxville News Sentinel/Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.
Ramsey and Harwell said the state Office of Legal Services warned them that the state constitution does not permit changes to general law through appropriations bills. The Republican leaders said they will work in next year's session to cut off state funds for Planned Parenthood through a separate bill (Knoxville News Sentinel/Chattanooga Times Free Press, 5/31).
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 amendments are attached to the state Senate and House approved $30.8 billion state budget. Each chamber passed the budget last month and has since adjourned for this fiscal year.
Campfield's amendment would have blocked $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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/31).
"The confusion surrounding the language in the budget regarding Planned Parenthood has been unfortunate," Ramsey and Harwell said in the statement. They added, "Our majority in the General Assembly clearly meant to defund" Planned Parenthood.
Harwell said there is strong support for cutting funding to the organization and that passage of a measure is "a done deal" for next year (Knoxville News Sentinel/Chattanooga Times Free Press, 5/31).
Knoxville News Sentinel Editorial Urges Lawmakers To 'Reconsider'
The Tennessee Legislature should "reconsider" its plans to try again next year on the bill, a Knoxville News Sentinel editorial states, adding that the "need for family planning services is undeniable." It continues that "removing Title X funding won't prevent a single abortion and could actually increase their number because access to family planning services would be restricted" (Knoxville News Sentinel, 6/1).