Gov. Haslam signs bill to prosecute mothers who use illicit drug

Gov. Haslam signs bill to prosecute mothers who use illicit drugs while pregnant

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NASHVILLE (WATE) - Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill into law Tuesday that criminalizes mothers who use illicit drugs while pregnant.

The law, which passed both chambers of the Tennessee State Congress earlier this month, would allow a mother to be prosecuted for an assaultive offense or homicide if she takes an illegal drug while pregnant and the baby is addicted, harmed or dies because of the drug use.

Previous story: Proposed Tennessee law would prosecute drug-addicted pregnant women

In a statement, Haslam said he had "extensive conversations with experts including substance abuse, mental health, health and law enforcement officials.  The intent of this bill is to give law enforcement and district attorneys a tool to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs."

The bill includes a provision to reassess the law in two years and makes the offense a misdemeanor instead of a felony, limiting the discretion law enforcement has from previous law in Tennessee.

"I understand the concerns about this bill, and I will be monitoring the impact of the law through regular updates with the court system and health professionals.," said Haslam in the statement.
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