Sanford: Lawmakers focused on penalizing Planned Parenthood miss other services

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The debate over abortion is playing out once again in a very public way in the Tennessee legislature. Fierce opponents of abortion are doing their best to virtually cripple agencies that provide the procedure by taking away funding for other important health services.

The House passed a bill this week that seeks federal approval to eliminate TennCare payments to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood even if the payments are for non-abortion services. What that means is money for such things as mammograms, prenatal care and birth control would be taken away from Planned Parenthood or any clinic that performs at least 50 abortions a year.

Supporters of the bill – which now goes to the Senate – insist patients can go to other non-abortion clinics for those services, but opponents argue that the proposal would cause tremendous hardships for many Tennesseans – particularly in Shelby County – who depend on TennCare funds for mammograms and prenatal care.

Let`s put aside the intractable debate over abortion for a moment.

The fact is, some lawmakers are so focused on penalizing Planned Parenthood they are willing to create headaches for thousands of low-income residents who only want access to necessary health care which is what Planned Parenthood also provides.

Whether the bill eventually becomes law is uncertain, but vital health services should not be caught up in partisan politics.

Commentary provided by Otis Sanford