For years, Pregnancy Justice has worked with leading medical experts and organizations challenging the myths and misinformation about pregnant drug-using women that have been used to hurt all pregnant women and establish precedent for overturning Roe v. Wade. Despite these efforts and Pregnancy Justice's overwhelming record of success in challenging punitive prosecutions and measures, Tennessee is on the verge of becoming the first state to enact a criminal law explicitly permitting the prosecution of women for their pregnancy outcomes.
On Tuesday, The New York Times ran a story about the legislation, "Specialists Join Call for Veto of Drug Bill," that quotes Pregnancy Justice's staff attorney Farah Diaz-Tello. Today, The New York Times' Editorial Board published "Criminalizing Expectant Mothers," calling on Tennessee's Governor Haslam to veto the law. The Times clearly heard Pregnancy Justice's message: "Prosecutors should have no role in overseeing prenatal care."
Both the news story and the editorial reflect years of Pregnancy Justice's advocacy, public education, and organizing efforts, including our collaborative work with coalition allies in Tennessee, such as SisterReach and Healthy and Free Tennessee, and around the country, including Young Women United, RH Reality Check, SisterSong, and WV FREE.
The Huffington Post recently published an infographic based on Pregnancy Justice's research: Where Laws Intended To Protect Women Are Used Against Them. It illustrates that even without laws like Tennessee's, pregnant women are being arrested, whether they experience miscarriages and stillbirths, give birth, or attempt to end a pregnancy.
Tennessee legislators have essentially passed a law that is itself a form of child abuse, deliberately defying the American Academy of Pediatrics and other leading medical organizations that have all concluded that using threats of arrest against pregnant women is bad for babies by increasing the risks of harm to children, born and unborn. Proponents of the law claim that it is a "velvet hammer" to force women into treatment. We say taking a hammer to a pregnant woman (velvet covered or otherwise) is a form of violence against women.
Thousands have called for a veto of SB1391 by signing the petition on RH Reality Check or by contacting Governor Haslam directly.
We hope that Governor Haslam will veto the law. But if he does sign it into law, Pregnancy Justice will continue our work with public defenders and our Tennessee-based allies to get the charges dismissed as unconstitutional, irrational, and a violation of basic human rights.
Please help us continue this fight.