Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced plans at his annual State of the State address Monday to expand support for crisis pregnancy centers in the state to $100 million.
Abortion has been illegal in Tennessee for all stages of pregnancy since a ban went into effect in the state in August 2022. On Monday night, Lee, a Republican, proposed strengthening support for women and families through a list of expanded social welfare programs.
“Pro-life is much more than defending the lives of the unborn. It’s not a matter of politics; this is about human dignity,” Lee said.
In addition to increased funding for crisis pregnancy centers, Lee also proposed widening Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women and parents, asking the federal government to cover the cost of diapers for Medicaid recipients, and granting additional paid parental leave time for state employees.
“There was a significant shift in this country last year when it comes to protecting the lives of the unborn,” Lee said, referring to the overturn of Roe v. Wade. “We now all have an opportunity, a moral obligation, to support strong Tennessee families.”
To take effect the governor’s proposed budget must be passed by the Tennessee General Assembly, which is majority Republican in both houses.
“If approved, Tennessee will be the first Medicaid program in the nation to implement this kind of support. That’s pro-life. That’s pro-family,” Lee said.
Crisis pregnancy centers typically offer pregnant women and families free resources and baby materials.
Pregnancy Resource Center, a Tennessee nonprofit medical clinic that operates two crisis pregnancy centers and a mobile clinic, offers “pregnancy testing, ultrasound exams, STD testing, and holistic wraparound care to women, men, and families in need,” according to CEO Valerie Millsapps.
Millsapps told CNA that she’s “grateful” the governor and state Assembly “are committed to serving moms and dads in need.”
“These are exciting times for Tennesseans,” Millsapps said. “It is clear that our governor and state leaders are prioritizing moms and families in the same way we have for decades.”
Millsapps also noted that the governor’s proposals are “just the beginning of what our state can do to foster environments where families flourish.”