Lawmakers in Tennessee are proposing legislation that would charge mothers with “fetal assault” if their unborn children are impacted by the use of narcotic drugs during pregnancy.
The bill states:
Notwithstanding subdivision (c)(1), nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution of a woman for assault under §39-13-101 based on the woman’s illegal use of a narcotic drug, as defined in Section 39-17-402, while pregnant, if the woman’s child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug and the addiction or harm is a result of the woman’s illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant.
Some have been quick to push back against the proposed law.
Dr. Stephen Patrick, director of the Center for Child Health Policy at Vanderbilt University, argued in a Twitter thread that such a policy would discourage pregnant women suffering with addiction from seeking much-needed medical care.
Proponents of the law suggest that it helps connect to treatment, but some of our research suggests that getting access to treatment can be difficult and may be even harder if you are pregnant. @SubstanceAbuseJ https://t.co/Xr66G3AXs9 pic.twitter.com/dxJro0yjsS
— Stephen Patrick, MD (@stephenwpatrick) February 10, 2019
It should be noted the GOP-led proposal features a provision to protect women whose children are impacted by narcotic use from prosecution as long as they “actively enrolled in an addiction recovery program before the child is born, remained in the program after delivery, and successfully completed the program.”
Similar legislation was approved in 2014, but a sunset clause allowed the law to expire in July 2016. If this latest attempt is passed, it will take effect July 1 of this year.
This pro-life proposal in Tennessee comes just weeks after New York passed a bill to ease access to late-term abortion. Lawmakers in New Mexico, Virginia, Rhode Island and Vermont have sought to implement similar bills.