Urgent Action Needed: Tell TN that Arresting Pregnant Women is Bad for Babies

Families in Tennessee need your help to keep the state from making a costly mistake that will undermine maternal, fetal, and child health. Last week, both chambers of Tennessee's legislature passed SB 1391, putting Tennessee on the threshold of becoming the first state ever to enact a law that explicitly criminalizes pregnancy outcomes. Grassroots Tennessee organizations, including Healthy and Free Tennessee and SisterReach, have been fighting this law for months, but now they need your help. The bill is awaiting Governor Bill Haslam's signature and will pass into law unless he vetoes it this week.

As reported by Cosmopolitan, this law would permit drug-using women to be arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated. But, as RH Reality Check points out, the law goes much further and has the potential to make a criminal of any pregnant woman who suffers a loss or gives birth to a baby with health problems. Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC wrote an open letter to Governor Haslam explaining the devastating impacts on mothers, babies, and families that will result from threatening pregnant women with arrest when what they need most is health care.

SB 1391 is unconstitutional, creating separate and unequal laws for women who become pregnant, and irrationally threatening arrest rather than providing support and treatment.

What you can do:

    Share the petition with people in your networks, especially those in Tennessee.
    If you are a physician or a professional involved in treatment of pregnant women, children, or families: We urge you to call the Governor's office TODAY and explain to him how dangerous SB 1391 is.
Office of Governor Bill Haslam
(615) 741-2001
1st Floor, State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243

Let Governor Haslam know:
    Criminalizing mothers is bad for babies. As every leading medical group to address this issue has concluded, such laws will deter women from what care is available, create incentives for unwanted abortions by women who cannot guarantee healthy birth outcomes, and will not increase access to treatment.
    Prosecutors are not doctors, and jails aren't treatment. Allowing police and prosecutors to oversee pregnancy, maternity care, and family health is dangerous and counterproductive.
    The "defenses" to the law are at best a fairytale. Portions of the law that appear to provide treatment as an alternative to arrest provide no protection for women addicted to narcotics. For example, the law excludes methadone and other ongoing maintenance treatments by requiring women to "complete a program" to avoid incarceration.

Act now to ensure that Tennessee women most in need of compassionate care are given health care, not handcuffs.

Support NAPW so that we can continue to provide analysis of laws like these and challenge them in the courts if they are enacted.