Apr 3, 2023 - News

Tennessee losing federal reproductive care funds

Illustration of a hundred dollar bill puzzle with pieces missing out of the center in the shape of a red cross

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Gov. Bill Lee's budget amendment, which is expected this week, will include money to replace millions in pulled federal funding for reproductive health services.

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the state in a March 20 letter that officials had recommended that the department stop providing the funding to Tennessee.

Driving the news: Under federal rules, clinics that get Title X federal family planning funding for reproductive health services must offer patients with a positive pregnancy test "nondirective" information on their options, "including providing referrals for abortion upon client request," the letter read.

  • "We understand that in some circumstances, those referrals will need to be made out of state."

Federal health officials wrote in the letter that "Tennessee is out of compliance with the Title X regulatory requirements," because the state's policy only called for providers who got Title X funding to share information "regarding all options that are legal in the State of Tennessee."

  • Tennessee enacted a strict abortion ban in August.
  • The letter stated that Tennessee's Title X policy did not include instructions for counseling on "infant care, foster care, adoption, or pregnancy termination, which are all required to be provided upon request."

State of play: In their March 31 response to federal authorities, Tennessee officials said the state had received Title X funding for more than 50 years. The funding is distributed to local health departments.

  • State officials asked to clarify if the Title X funding was being pulled "because of the [Tennessee health department's] refusal to advise pregnant women on how to get abortions that are illegal in this state."
  • The state's letter said that its counseling on infant care, foster care and adoption was the same as it had been during a previous review.
  • "The only thing that has changed is Tennessee law on abortion."

What they're saying: In a statement, Lee's spokesperson tells Axios "the federal government is denying Tennessee funding that has supported critical maternal and family care for thousands of Tennesseans for decades."

  • "As we discuss next steps with the attorney general's office, Gov. Lee will fulfill his commitment to serving families by proposing to amend the state budget to include state dollars to fill the void caused by the federal government’s decision."

By the numbers: The 2023-24 budget amendment will include $7.5 million in recurring state funding to make up for the Title X money.

  • The federal letter suggested Title X funding would stop at the end of March. An additional $1.875 million will go toward the funding gap for the current fiscal year.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to questions about the funding.


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