Moms of drug-dependent newborns could face rehab instead of assault charge under revised bill

Tennessee News

Tennessee lawmakers are taking a second look at a bill charging mothers with assault if their babies are born addicted to drugs, but the House sponsor says this is a bill about rehabilitation more than punishment. 

Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver says the bill that she is sponsoring in the House actually became law a few years ago, but it had what’s called a sunset clause which allowed the law to expire after two years on the books.

The lawmaker is bringing it back with a focus on getting addicted mothers to pass a drug court program.

If they successfully complete the program, then the mothers won’t face charges. 

“They get their life back. They get their children back. They have a job,” said the lawmaker. There (are) a lot of testimonies. That is why I applaud the drug courts.”

Rep. Weaver added that the bill HB 1168/SB 0659  “will bring more attention” to the increasing numbers of women having babies dependent on drugs. 

The lawmaker said there is no sunset clause in this year’s bill.

She expects her measure to start moving through the legislative committee system within weeks, but there could still be changes ahead in the language of the bill. 

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