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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