Tennessee legislators passed a controversial new bill in April of 2014; it will hold women criminally liable if they abuse drugs while they are pregnant. The governor will look over the bill and has the choice to block it or let it become a law. Backers and critics have been outspoken on the potential effects of the bill if it becomes law.
Supporters see the bill a hardline stance against pregnant women endangering the lives of their unborn babies. This is not the first bit of legislation that deals with Tennessee’s growing problem of drug-addicted babies. In 2013 the state passed a law named the Safe Harbor Act, pregnant women addicted to drugs will be able to retain their parental rights if they enter a treatment program. Under the potential new law, mothers face a possible 15 year prison-term if they are convicted of ingesting harmful drugs while they are pregnant. The new law also offers protection for women who are receiving treatment.
The opposition has several strong arguments against the new law; even pro-life advocates have weighed in. They contend that pregnant women are more likely to terminate their pregnancy with an abortion if they fear prosecution. Others argue that the same birth defects caused by illegally obtained drugs can be caused by legally prescribed drugs and there is really no way to pinpoint what caused the malady. Women following doctor’s orders can be investigated and even convicted under the new law.
Medical professionals and pro-life republicans aren’t the only ones taking issue with the new law; others worry that the law will unfairly affect poor and rural women. Since the law excuses women that are receiving treatment, women that live far from treatment centers or those who cannot afford it (time off work or transportation) will not be able to avail themselves of this protection.
Source: The Daily Beast