Monday, May 26, 2014
This Huffington Post piece by Chelsea Carmona, Criminalizing Good Maternal Health Care in Tennessee, highlights the troublesome gendered dimensions of Tennessee’s new law criminalizing drug use during pregnancy. Tennessee’s bill takes effect on July 1st and is the first law of its kind in the United States. The Huffington Post piece notes gendered differences in women’s patterns of drug addiction, describes critical gaps in care for pregnant women in substance abuse programs, and summarizes concerns anticipating the disproportionate prosecution of pregnant women of color, particularly rural women.
What is perhaps most striking about Tennessee’s law is its enactment against such an overwhelming volume of dissent from diverse stakeholders in law, medicine, and social services. Implementation of the bill is especially complex when considered in the context of tort law. As noted, it remains uncertain how a doctor could navigate the duty of care owed to the pregnant woman undergoing methadone maintenance without risking her possible incarceration. Yet to forego the “gold standard” for treating opioid addiction seems to breach a medical standard of care as well. As the law’s effective date looms, the question becomes how opponents of this bill can capture the law’s inevitably troubling impact when the gender, class, and race dimensions are so systematic and pervasive.
Cross-posted from Gender and the Law Blog