New TN bill would allow assault charges against pregnant women using drugs

JACKSON, Tenn. — A bill introduced in the state legislature aims to hold pregnant women accountable, as it seeks to prevent babies from being born addicted to illegal drugs.

“Get her early as possible, help her, support her, and then support her afterwards as she is learning to be a sober mother,” said Mary Russell, director of “A Mother’s Love” program.

The program is through Aspell Recovery Center, which specializes in helping women, as well as aiding expectant mothers in their fight against drug addiction.

She says as a counselor, she’s sees first-hand pregnant women and the struggles they face, especially those who might have a child born with withdrawal symptoms from certain drugs they were exposed to in the womb.

It’s a condition known as ‘neonatal abstinence syndrome’ or NAS.

“If we want the baby to avoid being born with NAS, we have to catch the woman or get the woman in treatment prior to delivery,” Russell said. “The goal is to have the mother and the baby together.”

A new bill being considered in the Tennessee legislature authorizes prosecution of a woman for assault based on the woman’s illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant if the child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug.

In an email to WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News from one of the bill’s authors, State Senator Janice Bowling says in part quote:

“The goal of the legislation is to get women who are abusing dangerous drugs during their pregnancy into treatment for both the mother’s and the baby’s sake. This legislation will hopefully get them into needed treatment programs that will turn their health, their baby’s health and their lives around.”

Leaders with “A Mother’s Love” says their doors are always open to women who need help.

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