NASHVILLE — Republican lawmakers on Tuesday withdrew two abortion bills, one that sought to require a woman to have an ultrasound before she could undergo the procedure and the other barring the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses.
No explanations were given for taking the ultrasound bill, sponsored by Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, and the fetal tissue bill, sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Gray, off notice.
Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, said the organization wasn't backing either one and had swung its support to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's legislation to regulate abortion clinics, as well as tissue donations.
The pro-life group has said it supports legislation that isn't likely to spur a federal lawsuit.
Tennessee Planned Parenthood officials say their facilities do not engage in tissue donation for medical purposes.
Controversies over the use of fetal tissue and organs for medical purposes exploded last year. That was when the anti-abortion group, Center for Medical Progress, released portions of secretly recorded videos. They purported to show a national Planned Parenthood official discussing with CMP members, who posed as researchers, the procurement of fetal tissues for medical purposes.
The video appeared to show Planned Parenthood affiliates seeking to profit from fetal tissue transfers. But Planned Parenthood officials charged the video was selectively edited and falsely portrayed abortion clinics charging fees beyond legally permissible tissue donation costs like transportation.
A Texas grand jury investigation resulted in the indictment of the Center for Medical Progress accusers, CNN has reported.
In other legislative action this week:
Two Tennessee lawmakers are pushing legislation they say would reduce fraud among state welfare recipients by contracting with private companies to check up on their activities.
"We see this as a moral issue in Tennessee," said Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, the House sponsor of what he calls the Act to Restore Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone. "Taxpayers should know where their hard-earned dollars are going."
Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, is sponsoring the measure in the upper chamber.
Both lawmakers said in a Monday news conference their intent was not to punish Tennesseans on various welfare programs. Howell noted his own parents benefited from welfare programs at times when he was growing up.
Roberts, who estimated one in four state dollars goes to welfare programs, said the purpose was to "make sure that money is available to people who need it most."
While Howell said he had no figures on how many Tennessee "fraudsters" were gaming programs like welfare, TennCare and food stamps, he noted similar efforts to curb fraud and abuse in other states indicated the savings could be $123 million or more.
He said curbing abuse would benefit those who really need help, citing a 7,000-person waiting list for Tennessee's Families First welfare program for mothers and their children.
The bill would allow staff officials to contract with private vendors to check areas such as income verification. The intent is making sure "Joe Schmo with two vacation homes and an Escalade" isn't cheating, Howell said.
Other provisions would monitor purchases of welfare recipients and spell out more places where they could not spend their money, such as massage parlors.
Under federal guidelines, the state in recent years has cracked down in areas such as welfare recipients' ability to use their EBT cards to withdraw money in liquor stores and casinos.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org, 615-255-0550 or follow via Twitter at @AndySher1.