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Tennessee Woman Charged Under State Law Banning Drug Use While Pregnant

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A 26-year-old woman in Tennessee has been charged under a new state law that bans taking drugs during pregnancy, according to ABC News. The woman, Mallory Loyola, is the first woman to be charged under the law.

Loyola was released on $2,000 bail and was charged with a misdemeanor.

The law calls drug use during pregnancy “assault,” the article notes. Loyola was arrested after she and her newborn baby tested positive for methamphetamine. The law permits women to be “prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant” if her baby is harmed or becomes addicted to the drug.

Critics of the new law say is will deter pregnant women who are addicted to drugs from seeking treatment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee is urging Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to veto the law, saying in a news release that it “raises serious constitutional concerns regarding equal treatment under the law and jeopardizes the health and well-being of Tennesseans.” The advocacy group notes the law makes Tennessee the first state to authorize the filing of assault charges against a woman who “decides to remain pregnant despite suffering from a substance abuse problem.”

Thomas Castelli, Legal Director of the ACLU Tennessee, said, “This dangerous law unconstitutionally singles out new mothers struggling with addiction for criminal assault charges. By focusing on punishing women rather than promoting healthy pregnancies, the state is only deterring women struggling with alcohol or drug dependency from seeking the prenatal care they need.”

After signing the bill in April, Governor Haslam said the intent of the law is to “give law enforcement and district attorneys a tool to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs.”

3 Responses to this article

  1. Jim Recktenwald / July 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    How much more sensible we would be to realize an opportunity for truly breakiing the cycle, if we stopped thinking in terms of punishment for addicted moms in favor of appropriate treatment. Chances are better than even that the “poor fetus” who came into this world has a Mom who was herself a child of an addicted mother. At Mom’s birth, all the staff could do, who were scandalized by her state of addiction, was “TSK, TSC, TSC,” without offering any form of intervention for her mother’s condition, and only palliative care for the infant. We can do better than that today. Tennessee has chosen to prove its backwater state of thinking in passing this draconian throwback to 19th Century medicine/law, where jail is the treatment of choice for persons with the disease of addiction.

  2. Ruth Kelley / July 17, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    After reading this article It is with great sadness that I pen this response – having successfully worked with and continue to work with pregnant women in our Behavioral Health Services for over twenty five years. Dimock in Roxbury Mass witnessed the results of 62 infants born drug free and of stable birth weights over a two year period back in the 90′s utilizing an Intensive Case Managed – integrated model of care with strong ‘Wrap Around” services beginning with Acute Treatment Services (detox)- improving the lives of women , infants and their families. The cost savings to hospitals and the state was in the millions in revenue if you add up the frequent admissions to emergency rooms and the cost of keeping an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit post delivery for lengthy stays. Those of us who work in the field of Substance Use Disorders (SUD) know treatment works. Research shows that the longer in treatment the better the outcome. We continue to HOPE that policies that address recovery, wellness and a comprehensive model of integrated care that support “Whole Health ” for families will continue to be a healing influence on systems that support addiction through a “back wards” approach. We will continue to be “A Voice” for our most vulnerable until we are heard.

  3. j-jay / July 15, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    So the support is for the poor drug-addicted mothers? How about the kids who may never reach what would have been their full potential because they were exposed to drugs as they developed? Why should anyone because compromised AND have to live with various conditions for life because she-who-was-carrying-them couldn’t keep her hands off the substances? When did leave common sense by the roadside? Yes, there can be sympathy for anyone addicted to substances, but nobody tied them down and forced drugs down their gullet- they chose to take it. The developing fetus had no such choice.

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