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New law will punish mothers of drug-dependent babies

Published On: Apr 30 2014 08:51:16 AM CDT
Bill Haslam

There's a new law on the books in Tennessee Wednesday morning that seeks to punish pregnant women who abuse drugs and have babies who are dependent on such illegal drugs.

The law allows women to be charged with misdemeanor assault if they abuse narcotics while pregnant, and give birth to a child who is dependent, or otherwise harmed, as a result.

Tennessee is the first state to pass such a bill. Women who seek help while pregnant will not be prosecuted.

Opponents of the law, including several doctors and health care workers, say it will keep women from getting prenatal care because they'll be afraid of going to jail. They also fear new mothers will not get babies help when the infants start to show signs of withdrawal.

Governor Haslam says he is aware of those concerns, and says the law contains a provision calling for a reassessment in two years to allow officials to examine data on the impact of babies and mothers.