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Politics

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam Signs Law to Jail Women for Pregnancy Outcomes

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Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) recently signed bill SB 1391 into law, which allows authorities to file criminal charges against women whose newborn babies display harm from use of illegal drugs (by the mom) during pregnancy.

According to The Tennesseean, Gov. Haslum has not expanded Medicaid in the state under Obamacare, which means many low income uninsured women do not have access to medical, prenatal or drug treatment care.

“We don’t want to expand a system that’s not doing a good job controlling costs,” Gov. Haslum told The New York Times in 2013. “We want to end up with something that’s not just Medicaid with lipstick on it.”

But Gov. Haslum signed the bill to imprison new moms in just ten days, which State Sen. Mike Bell (R) opposed.

“I represent a rural district,” Bell told Salon.com. “There’s no treatment facility for these women there, and it would be a substantial drive for a woman caught in one of these situations to go to an approved treatment facility. Looking at the map of the state, there are several areas where this is going to be a problem.”

However, State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, who sponsored the bill, dismissed those concerns as "another subject."

“I don’t know what to say about [how] some [women] have insurance and some do not,” Weaver told Salon.com. “It’s a terrible thing, but I don’t want to get into that because that’s another subject.”

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all opposed the bill because criminalizing pregnant women will likely cause them not to get medical help for their addiction for fear of jail.

Sources: The Tennesseean, The New York Times, Salon.com

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