A petition hand-delivered to Gov. Bill Haslam’s office Friday includes the names of 10,500 people asking him to veto legislation that would allow women to be criminally charged for drug use during pregnancy, reports The Tennessean.
Haslam has until Tuesday to act before the legislation becomes law. He hasn’t said what he will do, and a spokesman said he’s still collecting information. In four legislative sessions, Haslam has vetoed two bills and allowed one to become law without his signature.
The petition arrived amid a national wave of attention on state lawmakers’ approval of a criminal penalty against pregnant women — a move this session to bring back the kind of criminal charges they eliminated two years ago as the state shifted toward encouraging women to seek addiction treatment. (Note: previous post, citing a New York Times piece, HERE.)
The veto push is the latest in what has been a fierce debate the past three years about what to do to stem the rising number of babies born drug-dependent. Abuse of prescription painkillers has fueled a tenfold increase in such births in the past decade, sending state health officials into a scramble to study the effects on women and children, the role of doctors and treatment options.
The proposed law would allow prosecutors to charge women with assault if they believe they can prove that drug use during pregnancy harmed the newborns. Women could ward off prosecution by entering a treatment program.
Representatives of Planned Parenthood and Healthy and Free Tennessee delivered the petition to Haslam’s office. He also has heard from the ACLU of Tennessee, which asked him last week to veto Senate bill 1391 and House bill 1295.