Target: Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam
Goal: Revoke new law that criminalizes any petty drug use by pregnant women
New legislation in Tennessee allows for the imprisonment of women who use drugs during pregnancy. This law, SB 1391, grants doctors and physicians the right to report any drug usage by pregnant women to authorities. Instead of being brought immediately into a treatment facility with priority care, these women may be prosecuted and sent to jail after delivering their babies.
This law poses many problems, including encouraging discriminatory prejudices against minorities. Because doctors would be the ones to report the pregnant women, many women are now scared to seek treatment from their healthcare providers. Due to the high rate of minority usage of street level drugs, doctors or physicians may wrongly accuse their black or Latina patients at higher rates than their white counterparts. In addition, the law includes no statement about prescription drug abuse, which is more common among wealthy patients.
A child whose mother has been incarcerated due to low level drug use will be deprived of his or her mother’s presence during infancy. Instead of being given medical care in a treatment facility, a mother may be imprisoned for her minor crime.
This petition asks Gov. Bill Haslam to reconsider this law and evaluate the adverse consequences of implementing it. With the expiration date of this legislation arriving in 2016, legislators have the opportunity to ameliorate the situation by preventing the law from being renewed.
Dear Governor Haslam,
The new law SB 1391 will have far reaching, negative consequences for mothers and families across Tennessee. Not only does this legislation initiate potentially discriminatory policies against minority women, it also allows for doctors to become informants of the state. Prosecuting pregnant women for participating in street level drug usage is not the way to protect the woman and child. Instead, improving current drug abuse treatment programs and encouraging participation in those measures will have a much more positive impact on pregnant women.
I urge you to reconsider this legislation when its expiration date arrives in 2016. Rescinding this law and enhancing current substance abuse treatment programs will greatly improve the health of families, women, and children across Tennessee.
[Your Name Here]
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