KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A law criminalizing women who take illegal drugs during pregnancy in Tennessee will end in four months. Lawmakers voted Tuesday not to extend the fetal assault bill after July 1. If it had passed, new moms with babies born drug dependent would continue facing charges.Previous Story:Tennessee fetal assault bill fails in House subcommittee
Brittany Hudson, one of the first women to be charged under the law, says the bill was full of good intentions, but the problem is that there were never enough places for women, just like her, to go for help.
“I do regret a lot of things in the past but now I have the chance to do something different and hopefully change the outcome of another woman and her baby,” said Hudson.
She now works as a patient coordinator at Renaissance Recovery Group.
“For people who think that these moms are heartless and don’t care, they are so wrong. They come in here crying and I can remember everything they’re feeling,” said Hudson.
She says she feels a sense of relief that House Bill 1660 is no more after July 1, adding it’s not a black or white issue.
“What happens to the moms that slip through the cracks? That try? That’s what hurt the most is that I was trying. I didn’t try to stop on my own, I’ll admit that, I also did seek for help,” added Hudson.
She says there’s no easy solution, but more money should go into creating treatment centers. She also says everyone from the father of the baby, to doctors, lawmakers, and the community need to be held accountable.
“The law is working when babies are born clean. That’s when you know you have a win. When moms are still having drug exposed babies, they’re still not getting clean even after the baby is born. They’re scared to go to prenatal care. That’s a lose,” said Hudson.
Hudson says she wants soon-to-be moms in similar situations to know you’re not alone and to not be scared.
“Be a voice for your baby because obviously they don’t have a choice.”
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, who has been pushing this bill for years, says the decision is disappointing and she feels the voice of unborn babies is being squashed. She says there is an epidemic of drug dependent babies and the numbers are not going to decrease. Going forward,Weaver says it’s too soon to know if similar legislation will be drafted but this bill proves it effectively directed women to get treatment.
Along the way there’s been much criticism on the lack of resources available for soon-to-be moms, especially in East Tennessee. Clinical director Evan Sexton at Renaissance Recovery Group in West Knoxville says this is a problem that can’t be ignored anymore.
Sexton says access to care needs to be top priority and going forward, moms shouldn’t be scared to seek out prenatal care.
“We’re educating the OB community on where to send people to find those answers. A pregnant or parenting mother that has an insurance can contact insurance to find out who’s in network,” said Sexton.
Renaissance Recovery Group says if you need help to call (865) 474-1299.