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article imageTennessee woman charged with taking illegal drugs while pregnant

By Arthur Weinreb     Jul 14, 2014 in Crime
Madisonville - A 26-year-old woman is the first person to be charged under a new Tennessee law that makes a woman who takes drugs while pregnant guilty of misdemeanor assault.
Mallory Loyola, of Madisonville Tennessee, gave birth to a baby girl on July 6. Two days later the 26-year-old was arrested and charged with assault. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office was contacted shortly after the birth by the Department of Children's Services and were advised both mother and daughter were examined at the UT Medical Center. Loyola and her daughter both tested positive for methamphetamine.
According to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Loyola has several convictions for possession of meth as well as breaching probation and has served time in jail. Police say the woman admitted smoking meth three or four days before she gave birth.
The new law went into effect July 1. It says that illegal use of a drug by a pregnant woman constitutes an assault if the infant is harmed by or addicted to that drug. If the baby dies as a result of drug use, the mother can face a homicide charge.
Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens said, "Any time someone is addicted and they can't get off for their own child, their own flesh and blood, it's sad." The sheriff added, "Hopefully it will send a message to other women who are pregnant and who have a drug problem to seek help. That is what we want them to do."
The law was signed into effect on April 29 by Governor Bill Haslam. At the time Haslam said he had "extensive conversations with experts including substance abuse, mental health, health and law enforcement officials. The governor also said the intent of the law is to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs.
The maximum punishment for assault is one year in prison. It is a defence to the charge if a woman begins a treatment program while pregnant even though it is not completed until after the baby is born.
Critics of the new legislation, including the ACLU, argue the law will force pregnant drug users not to seek treatment due to fear of arrest. It is also claimed pregnant women are being singled out as it is not an offence for anyone else to have illegal drugs in their system.
After Loyola's arrest, Thomas Castelli, legal director of the ACLU of Tennessee, issued a statement saying, "This dangerous law unconstitutionally singles out new mothers struggling with addiction for criminal assault charges."
Loyola has been released on $2,000 bond. If the law is not successfully challenged, it will be reviewed in two years.
More about mallory loyola, Assault, new tennessee law, taking drugs while pregnant, Aclu
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