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Tenn. law punishing moms giving birth to drug addicted babies will end

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  A controversial Tennessee law that allows mothers to be prosecuted if they give birth to drug addicted babies will be allowed to expire later this year.

The Tennessean reports that a measuring seeking to renew the law failed to pass a House subcommittee yesterday.

Tennessee was the first state in the nation to pass such a law in 2014. The law makes it a misdemeanor offense to give birth to a child addicted to narcotics.

In testimony before the House Criminal Justice subcommittee, Coffee County Obstetrician Charles Harmuth urged lawmakers to let the law die.

“Women that are using and are pregnant are in the shadows, in the closet. My great concern today is that this bill is not going to give them the freedom, the sense of relaxation and the trust in the system to come out of those shadows.”

East Tennessee District Attorney General Tony Clark also testified, saying his primary concern is for children born with an addiction.

“We have had one woman – one woman – out of 30 some that have gone under this bill go to jail. That was by her choice because she refused treatment. The rest have gone through treatment.”

The measure failed on a vote of three to three. A proposal must receive a majority to advance out of committee.

Tennessee’s experiment to reduce the number of drug addicted babies through prosecution will end in June.