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.”