Tennessee: No To Abortion Under ObamaCare

Tennessee is the first state to declare that any health care plan exchanges set up by ObamaCare may not offer abortion coverage:

“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.”

The legislation passed by impressive margins:  70 to 23 in the House and 27-3 in the Senate.

“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.”

Tennessee is a model of how state pro-life groups can successfully fight pro-abortion provisions in ObamaCare.  Every pro-life group should be pressing for similar legislation to be passed in each state of the Union.

12 Responses to Tennessee: No To Abortion Under ObamaCare

  1. TonyC says:

    Csongratulations from a Tennesseee resident and Catholic. This is stronger action than the majority of our churches where the death penalty is the cause du jour of the church.

  2. “Fight the pro-abortion provisions in Obamacare?”

    Are you mad?? This opt-out was a basic provision in the healthcare bill that passed; that, and the fact that every exchange must offer a pro-life option, and that every plan than includes abortion must insist on a separate payment covering the gross cost of such provision. This is far far stronger that the pathetic “pro-life” provisions that the NRLC signed off on during the Bush years on the issue of Medicare Advantage (where the government subsidized private insurance companies to provide healthcare under the Medicare program, with no protections against those funds going to abortion).

    When, I wonder, will pro-life groups start fighting the real scandal here, the cozy relationship between private insurance and abortion? Remember, the people on the exchanges will have far more pro-life options than those of us in employer-based insurance. Is this not a concern? After all, there is no moral difference between paying into a plan that covers abortion using private premia or taxes.

  3. Are you mad?

    Very much so. I tend to think federal funding of abortion is something worth getting upset about.

    After all, there is no moral difference between paying into a plan that covers abortion using private premia or taxes.

    Great. Since you’ve agreed that paying for abortion is bad, whether from insurance or federal funding, you’ve agreed that Obamacare is bad and we should work to defeat it, just as you want us to work to defeat pro-abortion insurance.

  4. Phillip says:

    Darkness’s Minion seeks to cover for pro-death Obama again.

  5. Eric Brown says:

    Morning’s Minion’s basic point is quite right. I, however, do not share the same conclusions necessarily. The Senate bill (and thus the final bill that passed since it was unamended) had explicit provisions to allow states to bar insurance companies from selling policies with abortion coverage in the exchanges—in effect, what the Stupak-Pitts Amendment would have done at a national level, the Senate bill authorized at the state level. This wonderful act by the Tennessee legislature is not a novel in-your-face slap to the federal government. The legislature is taking advantage of a specific provision of the new health care law. A number of states will do this and should do so. Missouri is soon to follow Tennessee as it has already passed legislation out of committee in the state legislature doing the same thing.

    I work for a pro-life organization in Texas and I know that this is at the top of our lobbying agenda for the Texas legislative session.

    Morning’s Minion other point is also quite correct. The pro-life movement has really dropped the ball on dealing with the abortion moneymaking juggernaut in the private industry. In the legislative language passed by Missouri, it reads:

    Under current law, health insurance policies are barred from providing coverage for elective abortions except through optional riders. This act extends this prohibition to health insurance policies offered through any health insurance exchange established in this state or any federal health insurance exchange administered within this state. In addition, no health insurance exchange operating within this state may offer coverage for elective abortions through the purchase of an optional rider.

    It just so happens that Missouri and Tennessee have some of the most restrictive laws when it comes to abortion coverage. Missouri is one of five states that ban private insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in any comprehensive insurance policy. The “optional rider,” however, is virtually not on the market in the state. This is why many “pro-choice” advocates were diametrically opposed to the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. If there were a federal mandate that anyone receiving federal monies to purchase insurance could not buy comprehensive plans with abortion, then there is a huge market incentive to offer most, if not all, plans without abortion. Why would men, women passed childbearing age, families, and various other demographic cases purchase an insurance policy and pay extra to have abortion coverage? The fallback was that people that desired abortion coverage could purchase a supplemental rider with their own private funds. But it might turn out (like in Missouri) that riders are virtually not sold. This surely is not something for someone who is pro-life to be concerned about. This is reason for celebration.

    Nevertheless, it is certainly desirable that more than five states ban coverage of abortion in all comprehensive private insurance plans—unless our commitment to a market of maximum freedom overrides our pro-life ethic, which it should not. No one has the right to market a policy to reimburse a woman for the “choice” to kill her child.

  6. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “When, I wonder, will pro-life groups start fighting the real scandal here, the cozy relationship between private insurance and abortion?”

    Hey Tony, any time anyone wants to propose a ban on private insurance paying for abortion such legislation will have my immediate support. One little problem however: such legislation would doubtless be ruled unconstitutional under Roe and its progeny. The Supreme Court has made it clear that under the Federal constitution public funds need not be used to pay for abortions. Attempting to say that private funds may not be used to pay for a legal abortion would never pass constitutional muster. The solution of course is to overturn Roe, something made vastly harder by the pro-abort justices who are now being picked by the man you voted for.

  7. Eric Brown says:


    Legal bans on private insurance offering abortion as a primary benefit in comprehensive plans has survived in five states. I believe we can make ground there. 🙂

  8. I’m no lawyer, Donald (thank God!), but I don’t see how that follows. There is a supposed “right” to abortion, not a right to health insurance that covers abortion (the right to healthcare comes under Catholic social teaching, but sadly not from the American constitutional framework). States regulate what private insurance companies can and can’t do all the time – I see no reason why they cannot be prohibited from covering abortion.

    And remember, the part of Obamacare that you are praising in this post (for that is exactly what you are doing!) pertains to all plans on the exchange, even those available to people without subsidies. In other words, it effectively says that even private funds cannot pay for abortions if this provision is invoked by the states. This completely breaks new ground. And nobody to my knowledge has suggested that it is unconstitutional.

  9. Phillip says:

    Could they have written the ban for private insurance paying for abortion into the federal legislation? Kind of like a Civil Rights Bill for the unborn. If they could have, why didn’t they? Why do states need to opt out at all?

  10. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Well Tony in the case of states banning private insurance I hope my legal analysis is incorrect, but I believe that the Supreme Court would find that a ban on private insurance paying for abortions is an undue restriction on the constitutional right of a woman to have an abortion. As in most cases in this area Kennedy would be the deciding vote. I do encourage states to pass such legistation however and put the issue to a test.

  11. Kurt says:


    As has been mentioned, given that 5 states have long had such laws on the books, it seems these laws would stand.

    I think the RTL movement would be well advised to take up the cause of restricting the facilitation of abortion by private industry, something they have generally been rather quiet about.

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