by The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 06:36:14 PM EDT
[corss-posted at DLCC.org]
The debate still rages in America over when life begins. But what is beyond debate is that an infant born into this world is indisputably a living, breathing, feeling human being.
And Republicans in Tennessee just voted to let some of them die.
Since 2004, Tennessee’s Office of Children's Care Coordination has given millions of dollars in grants across the state in an effort to teach expectant parents how to prevent premature births and have otherwise healthy newborns, all as part of a broader effort to drive down third-world-level infant mortality rates in some parts of Tennessee.
The program has been so successful that its administrator said outright that canceling funding for the program would cause Tennessee babies to die.
Naturally, a State Senate committee's Republicans voted unanimously to do just that:
The committee voted 7-4, on straight party lines Thursday night to reject an effort by Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis and others to restore the state budget funding for the governor's Office of Children's Care Coordination and the grants it administers across Tennessee.
Republicans hold a 19-14 Senate majority, and the budget alternative they first unveiled May 11 has called for cutting the program's $4.6 million budget in half for the fiscal year that starts July 1, then eliminating it entirely the following year.
But Bob Duncan, director of both the Office of Children's Care Coordination and the Cover Kids health insurance program, said that effectively eliminates the program and its grants for local services in Shelby County and across Tennessee on Dec. 31. Asked what would happen if that occurs, he said, "You will see an increase in babies dying." [emphasis added]
Newspapers across Tennessee blasted this vote, and rightly so. The Nashville Tennessean called the Republican budget plan that ended funding for the program “heartbreaking hypocrisy.” And that, in a nutshell, is why this vote and this budget are so dangerous for Tennessee Republicans. It exposes their years of masquerading as “pro-life” legislators for what it really was: lies.
"If you are going to have a baby, let's give that baby a fighting chance," said Bob Duncan, head of the Governor's Office of Children's Care Coordination, which is on the chopping block. "This is real stuff. This is lives that are being saved and babies getting a chance to live. It just breaks my heart to know what is going to happen." If the Senate's budget passes, this office will close.
What is going to happen? Newborns are going to die. It's that simple. Politicians cannot hide the chilling statistics: In 2006, nine out of every 1,000 babies born in Nashville died before their first birthday. Today, thanks to this program that rate is down to six out of 1,000 births.
Democrats only need to pick up three seats to win back control the State Senate and two seats for control of the State House. That’s all it would take to make sure a budget like this never sees the light of day.
If the full Republican Senate approves this budget, they’ll take life issues off the table for their campaigns. From then on, if they even think about using abortion to smear their opponents, Democrats will have a powerful weapon to hit back with: the Republicans' own indifference to human life.
Hypocrisy is always a tougher sell than fear. Win or lose, Tennessee Republicans are going to remember that after November.