Pre-Natal Drug Abuse Law In Tennessee Charges Its First Offender

July 12, 2014  |  


A 26-year-old Tennessee mother is the first to be charged under a state law that criminalizes all drug use by pregnant women according to MSNBC. The law which went in to effect July 1st states:

“A woman may be prosecuted for an assault offense for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug and the addiction or harm is a result of her illegal use of a narcotic drug taken while pregnant.”

Mallory Loyola was arrested and charged last Tuesday with simple assault by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office after she and her newborn daughter tested positive for methamphetamines.

Loyola admits the she had smoked meth a few days before the baby’s birth. The misdemeanor carries a 1 year sentence.

Republican, Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill in April allowing the state of Tennessee to bring forth charges against new mothers for using illegal drugs while pregnant.

Civil liberties advocates feel that the law will create a “public health disaster” that especially targets women and children living in poverty. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee are calling plaintiffs to challenge the arrest. ACLU Legal Director, Thomas Castelli states:

“This dangerous law unconstitutionally singles out new mothers struggling with addiction for criminal assault charges.”

Tennessee is the only state that allows prosecutors to file criminal charges against women who abuse drugs while pregnant, but most states consider it a child welfare offense. A report by RH Reality Check also reveals that mothers in states who have recently made recreational use of marijuana legal may also be charged even if the drug appears to do no harm to the child.

It’s bad enough pregnant women can’t change kitty litter or eat lunch meat, now those struggling with addiction may find themselves in cuffs shortly after childbirth. It’s hard out here for a woman trying to bring life into the world. But in all honesty, being from Philly, I see too many women on our transportation system daily thanks to Facebook’s People Of Septa page who are nodding out high off heroin while their toddlers try to wake them up in time for their stop or women who clearly smoke or shoot up while pregnant. While I agree they need help more than harassment, they also need a wake- up call and if found guilty maybe prison will give them the opportunity to get clean and give their children a chance at a healthy start.

Do you think this law is a violation of civil rights or a positive move for public health?

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  • Gina

    They need to, it’s selfish to smoke, do drugs and drink alcohol while pregnant. I’m a mother as well and when I found out I was 4 weeks pregnant with my now 6 year old daughter, I gave up smoking and drinking altogether so she can come into the world healthy and she did.

  • Nya Jacobsen

    Anyone suffering from addiction needs help. Prison has not and will not rehabilitate drug addicts. Maybe monitored supervision makes sense, but criminalizing a new mother is not in the best interest of the child. Where are these newborns going while the mother sits in jail for a year? Substance abuse counseling, in-patient treatment, there are agencies that will even house new mothers…

  • FOX hunter

    I hope they will begin prosecuting any fathers who smoke cigarettes in the presence of their unborn child… you know—wouldn’t want the mother-to-be exposed to all that second-hand smoke!

    Congratulations, Tennessee… you just opened a huge can of worms.

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  • Stephie

    I completely agree with this law! Bringing a LIFE into this world is taken so lightly and the selfish act of willingly exposing your unborn child to your addiction should be punished. A year in jail is reasonable it allows them enough time to reflect , clean up, and get there life back on track. What would top this off is if the mother is given an opportunity to nurse and care for the child while in jail. If they are clean and able to establish the bond between mother and child I’m sure it would prove productive for all. Hat off to Tennessee I hope other states follow suit.

  • Trisha_B

    Good. The child’s well being is important. If you are making such dumb decisions while pregnant, just imagine the dumb decisions they will make when the child is here & growing up smh. It’s selfish. It’s not fair for a child to pay for it’s mothers stupid choices.

  • Guest

    Those dumb by.t(hes should be charged and have their babies taken away from them following childbirth. Whatever happened to the best interest of the child, huh?

  • Let It Be

    We can’t compare eating lunch meat (which we can we just have to warm it up) and changing kitty litter to poisoning our bodies with our unborn in them. To struggle with addiction in the first place is a choice; you choose to do drugs or not especially knowing you are carrying a child. After reading the quotes from the law provided, I think it covers what needs to be covered which is the life of the child. While it could be reviewed over time when different cases do appear (because they will) I don’t see any harm. Treat them while they are locked up though.

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  • J

    Obviously the law needs to re-examined.

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