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The state of Tennessee charged a woman this week with assault because her new baby tested positive for drugs.
Mallory Loyola, a 26-year-old Tennessee woman, gave birth a few days ago, and was then promptly put behind bars. The organization, and others in the women's rights and medical fields, say rather than deter women from using drugs, the law will deter women from getting the prenatal health care they need. The law also gives far too much discretion to prosecutors and is open to abuse because it is too vague, the ACLU told the governor in a letter urging him to veto the bill. But because the law doesna€™t define the type or degree of harm and any number of factors during a pregnancy can cause harm, ita€™s difficult to isolate which one causes a specific outcome, the ACLU argues. Some women smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol while pregnant too, but they arena€™t being thrown in jail, Todd suggests, saying ita€™s certain populations who are being targeted with this law because of the kinds of drugs they use.
Supporters point to the provision that allows for a woman to avoid conviction if she completes an addiction treatment program.
But that doesna€™t satisfy critics who respond that there are not enough spaces in treatment centres for pregnant women and women with young children and treatment in a private facility is unaffordable for many who are struggling with an addiction.

The ACLUa€™s Weinberg said ita€™s distressing that Tennessee is dealing with a drug abuse problem by focusing more on punitive measures than on creating more access to treatment for women.
Drug policy, health care, and legal protections for fetuses, are all touchy and controversial topics in the U.S. By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. The controversial new law went into effect in April and is the first of its kind in the country. She was the first to be charged under a controversial new state law that allows women who use illegal drugs while pregnant to be prosecuted for assault. Bill Haslam over objections from critics who argued it punishes women who are suffering from addiction and need help, not a criminal prosecution. In fact, policies that threaten women with criminal prosecution and the loss of their children drive women away from health care and discourage them from seeking both prenatal and pregnancy care," said Weinberg, adding the law will foster mistrust between women and their doctors. The law says an assault or homicide charge can be laid if a child is born "addicted to or harmed by" illegal drugs taken by its mother or it dies as a result of the use.

By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. The Tennessee branch of the American Civil Liberties Union wants to challenge the law in court and now that the first case is on the books it may have the plaintiff ita€™s seeking. Pregnant women and new mothers are unfairly being singled out when substance abuse is a problem across the board, she said. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines. She was taken into police custody as she was being discharged from the hospital and her bond was set at $2,000, according to local news reports. The law is scheduled to be in effect for two years, then lawmakers can decide whether to keep it or not.

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