Governor Haslam: Veto the Pregnancy Criminalization Law, SB 1391.

Stand with RH Reality Check, SisterReach, Healthy & Free Tennessee, National Advocates for Pregnant Women and
other signers to tell Governor Haslam:

Protect the health of Tennessee families, babies, and mothers by vetoing SB 1391, the Pregnancy Criminalization Law.


Background: SB 1391, the Pregnancy Criminalization Law, is bad medicine for Tennessee families. The law was promoted by prosecutors against the recommendations of medical professionals, and permits the arrest and incarceration of any woman who can’t guarantee a healthy newborn. Pregnancy criminalization substitutes the suspicion of law enforcement for the medical judgment of doctors and is far out of step with the most effective standards for either addiction treatment or neonatal care.

Babies thrive best when their mothers get prenatal care and can bond with them every day from birth through their second birthday. Mothers recover best in treatment for addiction when they can stay with their babies and families.

Pregnancy criminalization scares pregnant mothers away from prenatal care and drug treatment, and then mandates separating them from their babies just when they need each other the most. Women who fear arrest and separation from children they already have, likely because they can't afford private treatment for their addiction, may feel as though abortion is the only way to keep their current families together.

Only two of Tennessee's 177 addiction treatment facilities provide prenatal care on site and allow older children to stay with their mothers, and only 19 provide any addiction care for pregnant women. SB 1391 does nothing to expand services so that low-income parents can access the required treatment, though it costs less than a third as much as jailing them, and it’s out of step with Tennessee’s Safe Harbor Act, passed last year to lessen the threat of punishment and encourage women to seek treatment. By requiring “completion” of a treatment program, this law even rules out the most successful forms of treatment for narcotic addiction that use ongoing medication. Pregnancy criminalization on these terms could cost families months or even years of irreplaceable time together, while the state pays outrageous bills for unnecessary incarceration and foster care.

Criminalizing pregnancy outcomes is bad medicine for families whose health and pregnancies are already at higher risk from poverty. SB 1391 is bad medicine for a state economy that's better off when parents have access to the resources and family health services they need to care for their own children.

Stand with us to ask Governor Haslam to say no to pregnancy criminalization and veto SB 1391.