Tennessee bill to revive ‘fetal assault’ law would prosecute women who use drugs during pregnancy

Tennessee bill to revive ‘fetal assault’ law would prosecute women who use drugs during pregnancy
A similar law was passed and went into effect in 2014, but expired with a sunset clause two years later. (Source: Pexels)

NASHVILLE, TN (WDBJ/Gray News) - Tennessee lawmakers are looking to punish women who use narcotic drugs during pregnancy if the baby becomes addicted to those drugs.

According to HB1168, women who use narcotics during their pregnancy could face prosecution if their baby is harmed or born with an addiction.

“Notwithstanding subdivision (c)(1), nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution of a woman for assault under §39-13-101 based on the woman’s illegal use of a narcotic drug, as defined in Section 39-17-402, while pregnant, if the woman’s child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug and the addiction or harm is a result of the woman’s illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant,” the bill reads.

The bill includes a provision protecting women whose children are born with an addiction from prosecution if they “actively enrolled in an addiction recovery program before the child is born, remained in the program after delivery, and successfully completed the program."

A similar law, which was referred to as the “Fetal Assault Law," went into effect in 2014 but a sunset clause allowed it to expire in July 2016.

If passed, the new law will take effect on July 1, 2019.

A version of the bill introduced to the state Senate, SB0659, has already advanced to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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