A year ago Tennessee passed a bill allowing women to be charged with assault for using narcotics while pregnant, a response to an opioid epidemic that saw a nearly tenfold rise in incidents of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a condition that occurs when babies suffer withdrawal from exposure to narcotics. Leading medical groups opposed the bill — NAS makes babies irritable and causes gastrointestinal difficulties but isn’t associated with long-term negative consequences, and overwhelming medical evidence showed that punitive measures were counterproductive to the welfare of mothers and their children. Women charged under the law can, in theory, avoid prison by completing a state treatment program but, for many women, financial and logistical barriers make this impossible. At least 30 women have been arrested so far. According to Dr. Jessica Young, an obstetrician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville who has a clinic for opiate-dependent pregnant women, the best treatment for babies with NAS is to keep them with their mothers. Unfortunately, Tennessee’s law is designed to do just the opposite.
Read the full story at The Huffington Post.