Republican lawmakers introduced a controversial new bill on Wednesday that would aim to defund abortion providers currently receiving state funds through the Medicaid program known as TennCare.
Republican Jimmy Matlock from Lenoir City has sponsored the legislation, a bill he said was written after the apparent discovery that more than $1 million in TennCare funds have gone to abortion providers over the last six years.
It's illegal for state taxpayer dollars to be used to fund abortions, but Matlock claimed abortion clinics have been taking part in so-called "cost-shifting" schemes and using those funds to pay for things like rent and utilities.
"The time has come to put an end to taxpayer assistance of abortion clinics," Matlock said during a press briefing on Wednesday.
Matlock was joined by more than a dozen other Republicans who have been supporting the bill, including House Speaker Beth Harwell who's currently running for governor.
Pro-choice advocates were quick to fire back upon receiving word that the bill had been introduced.
"Government should never intrude in those personal decisions, and what we see happening is politicians engage in this conversation with no right to make those decisions for women," said Hedy Weinburg of the ACLU.
The bill will be debated in committee over the coming weeks. Sponsors said it would not impact abortions where the life of the mother or child is at risk.