Fetal Assault Law in TN will officially die in July (2016)

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House Bill 1660, known as the Fetal Assault Law, has been shut down in Tennessee.

The law was set to fade away on July 1, 2016 if no action was taken on it. However, lawmakers did indeed take action by allowing the bill to die in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee when they voted to end the bill by a vote of 3 to 3. In other words, the bill will end on July 1, 2016.

The fetal assault law was passed in 2014 in Tennessee. It allows mothers of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) to be charged with "Fetal Assault." NAS occurs when soon to be mothers take opiates during their pregnancy.

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The law will expire on July 1, 2016. House Bill 1660 would have deleted the termination date of the bill which meant it would have remained on the books indefinitely.

Read the Wording of HB 1660 that Failed:

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"Criminal Offenses - As introduced, deletes the July 1, 2016, termination date for legislation permitting the prosecution of a woman for assault of a fetus based on her illegal use of narcotic drugs while pregnant and creating the affirmative defense that the woman completed an addiction recovery program. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 13, Part 1 and Chapter 820 of the Public Acts of 2014."

Again, the bill was killed on Tuesday which means after July 1 of this year, mothers will not be charged with Fetal Assault or Assault.

Read the Current Law as Written for Tennessee:

TCA 39-13-107: Fetus as victim. [Effective until July 1, 2016. See the version effective on July 1, 2016.]

First of 2 versions of this section

(a) For the purposes of this part, "another," "individuals," and "another person" include a human embryo or fetus at any stage of gestation in utero, when any such term refers to the victim of any act made criminal by this part.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to amend the provisions of § 39-15-201, or §§ 39-15-203 -- 39-15-205 and 39-15-207.

(c) (1) Nothing in subsection (a) shall apply to any lawful act or lawful omission by a pregnant woman with respect to an embryo or fetus with which she is pregnant, or to any lawful medical or surgical procedure to which a pregnant woman consents, performed by a health care professional who is licensed to perform such procedure.

(2) Notwithstanding subdivision (c)(1), nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution of a woman for assault under § 39-13-101 for the illegal use of a narcotic drug, as defined in § 39-17-402, while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug and the addiction or harm is a result of her illegal use of a narcotic drug taken while pregnant.

(3) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution permitted by subdivision (c)(2) that the woman actively enrolled in an addiction recovery program before the child is born, remained in the program after delivery, and successfully completed the program, regardless of whether the child was born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug.

Second of 2 versions of this section

(a) For the purposes of this part, "another," "individuals," and "another person" include a human embryo or fetus at any stage of gestation in utero, when any such term refers to the victim of any act made criminal by this part.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to amend the provisions of § 39-15-201, or §§ 39-15-203 -- 39-15-205 and 39-15-207.

(c) Nothing in subsection (a) shall apply to any act or omission by a pregnant woman with respect to an embryo or fetus with which she is pregnant, or to any lawful medical or surgical procedure to which a pregnant woman consents, performed by a health care professional who is licensed to perform such procedure.

History: Acts 1989, ch. 591, § 1; 2011, ch. 408, § 1; 2012, ch. 1006, §§ 3, 4; 2014, ch. 820, §§ 1, 2.

Read what Health & Free Tennessee had to say about the bill:

Statement by Allison Glass, State Director of Healthy and Free TN on the defeat of House Bill 1660:

"We are thrilled that the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee just defeated House Bill 1660 by a vote of 3 to 3. This would have extended a dangerous and harmful law that has jailed pregnant women and new mothers who have used drugs, instead of working to ensure that they have access to effective treatment options. We are grateful to Representatives Akbari, Stewart and Farmer for taking a stand with Tennessee women and families.

Health and drug treatment professionals agree that treatment for addiction is critical, but they also agree that bills that focus on punitive measures in order to coerce people into getting treatment simply are not effective. In fact, this law has harmed the very people it was supposed to help.

We should not be separating families or using limited state funds to incarcerate people who need health care and support. We hope that the defeat of this bill will provide an expanded opportunity to work with lawmakers to ensure that people have what they need to get on the road to recovery and to build strong, healthy families. That is what it will take to ensure the health of women, their babies and our communities. We will continue to monitor bills related to this issue and to look for opportunities to support forward thinking policies.

The defeat of this bill is a huge victory not just for Tennessee, but we hope that it will also serve as a signal to the other states that are considering advancing their own bills that replicate this harmful policy. We should never put our criminal justice system in the position of creating health policy."

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Tags: 
assault, baby assault, fetal assault, Murfreesboro news, NAS, Nashville news
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