• Tennessee law would charge pregnant women who abuse narcotics with assault

    By: Greg Coy


    Two Tennessee state lawmakers want to bring back a law to charge pregnant mothers who abuse narcotics with assault if their child is born addicted. 

    Experts in addiction counseling complain this measure doesn't address the real need: enough bed space for treatment.

    Carmelita James' drug of choice was marijuana. 

    "I was addicted, and I had a daughter and she survived for two months," said James. 

    James smoked pot heavily during her pregnancy and her child was born with birth defects. 

    "She died of SID and it was quite traumatic," said James, who has been in recovery for years and counsels addicts now.  

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    James believes pregnant mothers have a moral obligation to seek treatment if addicted.  

    "I do believe they should automatically be sentenced to rehab. No stops, go straight to rehab," said James.

    Two Tennessee law makers have proposed a bill to bring back a law that expired. It would allow prosecutors to charge an expecting and addicted mother with assault if the child is born with an addiction to narcotics.   

    Defense lawyers could ask for leniency if the mother successfully completed treatment. 

    It is a national problem, according to documents FOX13 obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

    Its reports show the number of children suffering from a drug withdrawal syndrome increased by nearly 400 percent from 2000 to 2012. 

    "When it comes to pregnant women we really don’t want to do anything that will deter them from getting medical help," said Dr. Ted Bender, CEO of Turning Point Addiction Campuses. 

    Bender believes this proposal would frighten addicts from getting help at time when there are not enough resources and bed spaces to help them recover.  

    "All of this is against what we are advocating for, which is greater access for treatment and greater access to better treatment," said Bender.

    FOX13 emailed the two lawmakers to ask why they proposed this bill to reinstate a law that expired. They have yet to respond.

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