Tennessee bill would require women to show proof of citizenship for prenatal care, WIC

A controversial bill proposed in the Tennessee legislature would require women to prove citizenship status in to obtain government prenatal care and women, infants and children food benefits.

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The bill was filed by Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, and seeks to restrict or limit welfare benefits to anyone who is not a United States citizen, The Tennessean reported. While the bill specifically restricts mothers and pregnant women in the country illegally from receiving government prenatal care and WIC benefits, Griffey said the wording is "placeholder language."

Griffey has filed an amendment with the clerk’s office that doesn’t mention prenatal care or WIC benefits, but addresses judges inquiring about defendants' citizenship and legal status and the appropriate bond amounts for people in the country unlawfully, according to the newspaper.

The amendment hasn’t been heard by any committees.

On Tuesday, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition organized at the Capitol building to speak out against Griffey’s bill and other legislation.

"If Rep. Bruce Griffey has his way and all the new bills were passed, he would have stopped me and my baby from accessing life-saving medical care when he was born," said 28-year-old Karla Vazquez, who is the mother of a 2-year-old boy.

House Bill 1238 and its equivalent in the Senate, Senate Bill 1279, can be read on the Tennessee General Assembly website.

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