Governor signs bill allowing prosecution of pregnant women for drug abuse

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law HB1295, which authorizes prosecution of pregnant women for using illegal drugs on misdemeanor assault charges. There had been an organized effort to convince him to veto the bill.

Here’s the gubernatorial statement distributed to media:

In reviewing this bill, I have 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, which is important so that we have real data to assess the legislation’s impact on mothers and babies. The bill also makes the offense a misdemeanor instead of a felony and actually limits the discretion law enforcement has from the original law in Tennessee.

For all of these reasons, I have signed the bill into law.

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.