Tennessee Becomes First State To Criminally Charge Women Who Take Drugs During Pregnancy

Tennessee just became the first state to punish women who engage in fetus-harming activities during their pregnancies, if their newborn baby is deemed to have been negatively impacted by their behavior.

According to SB 1391, which was just signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam, the state can now charge a woman with criminal assault if she engages in illicit drug use while pregnant and her newborn is considered harmed as a result.

Various doctors, addiction experts and reproductive health groups — as well as the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy — advised Haslam against this measure, citing that the state doesn't offer enough resources to help addicted women get clean, among other reasons.

It's true, Tennessee notoriously and sadly seems to under-offer as far as drug abuse resources go. Only 19 of the state’s 177 addiction treatment facilities have programs that are specifically oriented to help pregnant women.

The state also denied the Medicaid expansion plan that has left many of Tennessee's residents without access to basic medical care or prenatal assistance options.

This law will likely only exacerbate the issues that women who are both addicted to illegal substances and pregnant will face by dissuading them from asking for help or receiving treatment due to fear of arrest.

H/T: Salon, Photo Courtesy: Fanpop