In April 2018, Tennessee passed a law, Amendment 36, declaring the state’s belief that childbirth and family planning services should not include elective abortions. Additionally, this law aims to eliminate “direct or indirect use of state funds to promote or support elective abortions,” meaning agencies providing elective abortions should not be eligible for any government money and should not be Medicaid providers. Medicaid-provider eligibility is determined by the federal Center for Medicaid Services (CMS). If a state wants to eliminate a Medicaid provider, it must get a waiver from CMS. This month, TennCare (the Medicaid program in Tennessee) submitted a waiver request to CMS to prohibit abortion providers from participating in TennCare.
In accordance with Amendment 36, Tennessee petitioned CMS for permission to exclude “any entity that performed, or operated or maintained a facility that performed, more than 50 abortions in the previous year, including any affiliate of such an entity.” It’s clear that Tennessee is operating within its authority to set reasonable standards for what kind of providers are eligible for Medicaid funds. The waiver request is currently undergoing a public comment period that will close on September 23.
Planned Parenthood receives several forms of government money; their second largest source is Title X grants, and their biggest source is Medicaid reimbursement. Naturally, they are protesting this law, because not only will this likely cut off Planned Parenthood’s funding in Tennessee, but it will set a crucial precedent for other states who are trying to cut off Medicaid funding from abortion providers. Texas currently has a similar waiver pending before the Trump Administration, and if this waiver is enacted, it is likely other states will follow. This is also why we need your help to submit a public comment supporting this policy.
Planned Parenthood claims that without this money, their services will decline, and they will be forced to cease operations, a move that will cause rural women to suffer. However, there are only three Planned Parenthood clinics in Tennessee: one in Knoxville, one in Nashville, and one in Memphis — the three most populated cities in the entire state; their assistance to rural women is not apparent. In the state’s waiver request to CMS, the TennCare Director, Wendy Long, explains that should this policy go into effect, rural healthcare will not be impacted, because the providers that do serve rural women are unaffected by this policy.
Women deserve better than the care they receive at abortion mills, and states should be able to determine who best serves their citizens. This waiver is important for Tennessee but will have a nationwide impact to pave the way for frustrated states to try for similar waivers, so they, too, can cut off government funding from Planned Parenthood. Please submit a comment today and tell CMS that you support states’ ability to determine who provides care for their citizens.