Feb 7, 2023 - Politics

Gov. Bill Lee wants to expand care for moms in need

Photo illustration of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

In Gov. Lee's first State of the State speech since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling last year, he said Tennessee has a "moral obligation to support strong Tennessee families."

What he's saying: "Pro-life is much more than defending the lives of the unborn. This is not a matter of politics — this is about human dignity," Lee said.

  • "We can have a healthy debate about the policy specifics, but we can also agree that America is rooted in a commitment to human dignity.”

State of play: Tennessee's sweeping abortion ban took effect after the ruling. Lawmakers are set to debate changes to the ban, including proposals for exceptions such as rape, incest and if the health of a mother is in jeopardy.

Driving the news: Lee touted his administration's investments in health care for mothers on TennCare. Lee said the state will utilize shared savings from its Medicaid waiver agreement with the federal government to provide medical services to 25,000 additional mothers, children and parents.

  • He added that the state will propose a new TennCare benefit to cover the cost of diapers for the first two years of a baby's life.
  • "If approved, Tennessee will be the first Medicaid program in the nation to implement this kind of support," Lee said. "That's pro-life. That's pro-family."

The other side: Rep. Karen Camper, who delivered Democrats' "prebuttal" to Lee's speech, bashed Republicans' refusal to expand Medicaid. The state has missed out on $23 billion in federal funding as a result, she said.

  • "Too many people will continue having to choose between a life-saving prescription and putting food on their kitchen table until the governor and supermajority choose to do what is right," Camper said.

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