Tennessee became the first state to pass a law aimed at trying to charge pregnant women with a crime if they are addicted to drugs and refuse to get treatment. Addicted mothers who reject help would be charged with misdemeanors. Recently signed by Governor Bill Haslam, the law has not come without controversy.
According to news sources, The American Civil Liberties Union and some other groups argue that the law attempts to punish women for private choices in life, while the other side of that says that they’re causing potential harm to the child. When does the protection of personal rights become more important than protection of the rights of others?
Other critics of the law say that it might be a deterrent for pregnant women to receive proper medical care during pregnancy if they feel they’ll be punished. However, the law is intended for help and instead of punishment, providing a form of intervention so that mothers and babies can become more healthy.
Some people have said that separating a mother from her baby and forcing her to into treatment is not responsible, but these people aren’t understanding that there are many kinds of rehabilitation programs, including ones where mothers can have their children with them as well as outpatient centers.
Among the varying points made by proponents and detractors, they all seem to have some sensibility and intend to offer support for society and individuals in their own ways. Whether or not you agree with the new law, it became clear to officials in the state, and elsewhere, that something else needed to be done to reduce the percentage of babies being born addicted to drugs.
Did they go too far with this law, or is a misdemeanor not severe enough for those who refuse help? Where is the line drawn between accountability and compassion? The state has agreed to review the effects of the law after two years and implement adjustments and improvements if needed. Meanwhile, similar laws could start popping up in other states.