TN bill would charge moms whose babies are born addicted - WSMV Channel 4

TN bill would charge moms whose babies are born addicted

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More and more babies in Tennessee are being born addicted to drugs, and now a state lawmaker wants to hold moms accountable.

Jackie Bains gave birth to a happy, healthy baby Tuesday night. It was an amazing day for a mom who has been battling an addiction to pain medication.

"I had tried to get off of it on my own. It's just harder to get off of it on your own. It's easier to get the help," Bains said.

Bains was prescribed hydrocodone after nearly dying in a car accident just over a year ago. Months later, when she found out she was pregnant with her son, Korbin, she immediately sought help, afraid he could be born with a hydrocodone dependency.

"He seems to be very happy. They've checked him over, and he's pretty peaceful," Bains said.

Many other babies haven't been so lucky. Last year, 855 Tennessee babies were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or drug withdrawal.

"These babies are born and their lives are totally destroyed," said state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster.

Weaver wants stricter laws for moms doing drugs while pregnant. She's sponsoring House Bill 1295, which would require moms be charged with misdemeanor assault if their babies are born addicted to cocaine, meth or heroin.

"This bill says we can get you help. If you go to drug court and come out clean, we'll drop the charges," Weaver said.

Dr. Jessica Young treated Bains and 150 other pregnant women seeking help with addiction since her clinic opened two years ago.

She doesn't think the legislation will work.

"Unfortunately, I think what it will actually do is isolate these women and make it less likely for them to seek prenatal care. And they won't get the care they need due to fear of punishment and incarceration," Young said.

The bill could be expanded to include babies born with alcohol or prescription pill addiction.

"We're seeing more and more women who are abusing pain pills that switch to heroin," Young said.

But Weaver believes without holding women accountable, the numbers of drug-addicted babies will only go up.

This bill goes up for a vote in the full House on Monday. The Senate version has been delayed until early April.

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