ACLU To Challenge Tennessee Law Criminalizing Drug Addict Mothers
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee plans to challenge a new Tennessee state law that allows women who give birth to drug-dependent babies to be prosecuted.
The first woman charged under the law, 26-year-old Mallory Loyola, was arrested two days after she gave birth to a baby girl. Both tested positive for amphetamines, WBIR reports.
The law, which went into effect July 1, states that "a woman may be prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug.”
The ACLU is calling for plaintiffs to challenge the law, which they say only prevents addicted mothers from seeking substance abuse treatment.
"By focusing on punishing women rather than promoting healthy pregnancies, the state is only deterring women struggling with alcohol or drug dependency from seeking the pre-natal care they need," Thomas Castelli, legal director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said in a statement. "This dangerous law unconstitutionally singles out new mothers struggling with addiction for criminal assault charges."
Tennessee is facing an epidemic of babies born with narcotics in their systems. Infants who withdraw from opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone suffer from a painful condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. In 2013, there were 921 babies born with NAS in the state.
Bond was set at $2,000 for Loyola, a Monroe County resident.
"It's sad to see a child not getting an opportunity," Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens told WBIR. "We want to see our children have a chance in life."
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