A Tennessee bill that punishes women who give birth to drug-addicted babies was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Bill Haslam.
Sullivan County District Attorney Gen. Barry Staubus championed the bill and testified in front of the Tennessee Senate regarding the problem of drug-addicted babies. He has seen the results of pregnant mothers abusing drugs firsthand, as Sullivan County accounts for 10 percent of all Tennessee babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
“We’re hoping by having this law is one hold mothers accountable, but on the other to give them an incentive to get into a program, but if they refuse or they don’t successfully complete they’ll be held accountable for that,” says Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus.
At first some doctors say they were against the law, for fear new moms would avoid pre-natal care, but with the opportunity to seek treatment some doctors are now hopeful this bill could cut down on the number of drug dependent babies in Tennessee.
“The misdemeanor means it can be expunged by a judge, it means that the DHS doesn’t take your baby away and it has nothing to do with an application for a job because it doesn’t interfere with your job aspects and prospects and that’s really important,” says Dr. Doug Springer, the President of the Tennessee Medical Association.
Now leaders hope this bill, which goes into effect July 1, will help moms and babies.
Tennessee is the only state in the country to have a law like this one. Governor Haslam says in two years the administration will take a look back and see what the impact is like and adjust the law as needed.