A controversial new state law in Tennessee allows for prosecution of women who use drugs while pregnant, on the grounds that such behavior is equivalent to "assault," according to ABC News. And the first woman in the state has just been charged with that crime.
According to the local ABC News affiliate, 26-year-old new mother Mallory Loyola was arrested this week following testing positive, along with her newborn baby, for meth.
The law took effect just this month, and allows for the prosecution of a narcotic drug-using mother whose pregnancy drug use harms the baby, or leads to his addiction.
In this case, Loyola admitted to smoking meth (which is not a narcotic) only a few days before giving birth to her child. After delivery, the baby girl tested positive for meth. Loyola's charge, a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to a year in jail.
Critics of the new law worry that it will disproportionately punish poor mothers and mothers of color. And the law flies in the face of the Obama administration's emphasis on treating rather than punishing such crimes.
I worry, too, that poor and minority moms will be unfairly victimized by such a law. And in many circumstances, it seems babies would be much better served if their moms end up in treatment—potentially a life-saving, family-protecting service that could last a lifetime—rather than separated from the family while doing a stint in jail. Jails aren't rehab facilities, after all.
But let's hear from you: Do you support or oppose a law that makes drug use during pregnancy a crime?
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