Tennessee’s Fetal Assault Law: Understanding its impact on marginalized women

In 2014, Tennessee became the first state to enact a law authorizing the arrest of women in relationship to their pregnancies. Sold to the public as a law designed to address only issue of opioid use by pregnant women, it actually established broad state authority to arrest pregnant women for the crime of fetal assault if they intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly (no intent needed) caused bodily injury to eggs, embryos, or fetuses as a result of an "unlawful act" or an "unlawful omission." Among the state-based organizations to oppose this law from the beginning was SisterReach. “Founded October 2011 in Memphis, TN, SisterReach is a grassroots 501(c)3 nonprofit that supports the reproductive autonomy of women and teens of color, poor and rural women, LGBTQIA+ people and their families through the framework of Reproductive Justice.” In addition to their education and organizing work, SisterReach, led by its founder and CEO, Cherisse Scott, decided to conduct much needed and invaluable research to document the impact of the law on marginalized women. Pregnancy Justice is proud to have been able to support this effort and become a co-author of this report led by Sister Reach and their staff, Orisha A. Bowers, PhD, Jakiera Stewart, BSN, BPS, and Cherisse Scott, and with Ibis Reproductive Health and their staff Terri-Ann Thompson, PhD and Carmela Zuniga, MA. Because of effective organizing and documentation of the harm caused by the so-called fetal assault law, it went out of effect in 2016.

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Read What The Tennessee Law Permitting Arrests of Pregnant Women Actually Says Here