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Posted: July 14, 2014

First Tenn. woman arrested on charges of drug use during pregnancy


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By Ryan Biek

In a groundbreaking legal case, a Tennessee mother is the first to be arrested in the state on charges of using drugs during her pregnancy.

MSNBC reports 26-year-old Mallory Loyola was charged under a new state law after both she and her newborn daughter tested positive for methamphetamine. 

​The new law deems narcotics use during pregnancy an assaultive offense, and a maximum prison sentence for the misdemeanor is one year. (Via Tennessee General Assembly)

"Anytime someone is addicted and they can't get off for their own child, their own flesh and blood, it's sad." (Via WATE)

​The Tennessean ​repor​ts the state saw more than 900 drug-dependent babies born in 2013. On average, it costs $62,000 to deliver a drug-dependent baby; whereas, delivery of a healthy baby costs less than $5,000.

The Crossville Chronicle attributes the high costs to the sad and painful process of alleviating the newborn's withdrawal, with symptoms including tremors, seizures, the inability to feed and the inability to self-soothe. 

Many state and national critics say the law will only deter drug-abusing pregnant women from seeking treatment. 

Thomas Castelli, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, released a statement saying, ​"This dangerous law unconstitutionally singles out new mothers struggling with addiction for criminal assault charges.​" The ACLU plans to challenge the law and encourages others' support. (Via The American Civil Liberties Union)

But Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens disagrees, telling WATE: "Hopefully [this case] will send a signal to other women who are pregnant and have a drug problem to seek help."

Critics, like Castelli, argue the law makes addiction a criminal offense. 

Perhaps more controversial is what some, such as Elaine Lisko of the University of Houston Law Center, see as a push for abortions. She says, "It punishes the woman who decides to continue her pregnancy and motivates the woman who wishes to avoid criminal prosecution to terminate her pregnancy." (Via University of Houston Law Center)

As an alternative to criminalization, 18 states have statutes that promote education and treatment. (Via The Guttmacher Institute)

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