First Mom Arrested Under Tennessee's New Anti-Drug Law

WATE 6 News/FacebookWATE 6 News/FacebookIn April, Tennessee passed a law allowing women who use narcotic drugs during pregnancy to be thrown in jail for up to 15 years, regardless of whether the child suffered any ill-effects. This week, new mother Mallory Loyola became the first woman in Tennessee to be arrested under the new law.

Loyola, 26, gave birth to a baby girl on Sunday at the UT Medical Center in Monroe County, Tennessee. Police were called when the baby tested positive for meth. Loyola—who admitted to smoking meth a few days before giving birth—was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault (punishable by up to one year in prison). While the law allows some pregnant women to opt for a treatment program over time behind bars, no such option is available for drug-addicted moms once they give birth. 

"Anytime someone is addicted and they can't get off for their own child, their own flesh and blood, it's sad," Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens told local news station WATE, adding that he hoped Loyola's fate would deter other pregnant drug users. 

Cases like Loyola's are sad, of course. And I understand the impulse people have to do! something! about it! But addiction isn't rational, and addicts don't generally respond to the same incentives a non-addict would. If the welfare of someone's "own flesh and blood" isn't enough to stop them from using, why would the possibility of police intervention work? I suspect Loyola's fate will deter other pregnant drug users, but not from doing drugs; it will deter them from seeking addiction treatment, prenatal care, and hospital births. 

Notably, the new Tennessee statue was passed with painkiller addicts in mind—state officials spoke to the need to address the "epidemic" of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a form of withdraw that can result from a mom using prescription opioids (such as codeine and Vicodin), heroin, or methodone during pregnancy. The language of the Tennessee bill specifically criminalizes narcotic use during pregnancy only:

As enacted, provides that a woman may be prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug; law expires July 1, 2016. 

As meth is by no means a narcotic, it will be interesting to see how law enforcement tries to justify Loyola's arrest under this statute. The Drug Enforcement Agency's extensive drug classification list explicitly states that both amphetamine and methamphetamine are not narcotic drugs. And Tennessee's own state code defines narcotic specifically as any compounds, salts, and derivatives of opium and coca leaves. 

(For a more detailed look on how states and hospitals across the U.S. are addressing pregnancy drug use, and the implications, see this piece I published here in May and this piece from BirthAnarchy.com.)

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Brett L||

    We must destroy the lives of children in order to save the lives of children.

  • WTF||

    Well yeah. If she had aborted the baby, that would be okay. I guess you can kill fetuses, you just can't get them high.

  • prolefeed||

    It's OK to kill them, because that costs the state nothing. But if you give birth to the state's property in a damaged condition, then the state ought to lock up the slave who did this damage.

    That appears to be the unspoken reasoning behind this law.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Wait, the statute seems to require that the drug cause "ill effects." Can't be convicted without them. Am I missing something?

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    From what I understand from interviewing people about this previously is that "ill effects" is considered a given if the baby tests positive for drugs, even if no immediate or long-term ill effects are apparent.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Hmmm...

  • ||

    You're right, the Bill requires the baby to be born addicted or harmed. Perhaps Ms Brown thinks being born addicted is not "ill effects". Either that or she was a bit sloppy (say it isn't so, Elizabeth!).

  • ||

    Ah, must hit refresh...

  • Swiss Servator, Alles Klar||

    In Soviet H&R, refresh hit you!

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    Well technically speaking babies can't be addicted. They can have withdraw symptoms, which are short-lived but certainly an "ill effect," sure.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    Which, right, I guess makes my first paragraph a bit contradictory. I suppose I should have said "no serious or long-term" ill effects.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    But (and sorry for all the addendums) it should be noted that newborn addiction/withdrawal/whatever you want to call it isn't *required* for the law to apply. A similar law was on the books in Tennessee until a few years ago, and people say that a baby testing positive for a drug, even absent any symptoms, was sufficient to be considered "harm."

  • Swiss Servator, Alles Klar||

    "per se"

  • Ted S.||

    Gotta love a rerun of the crack baby moral panic.

  • Swiss Servator, Alles Klar||

    Oh, did anyone else think, upon reading the headline, that the Governor's mom had been arrested?

  • Atanarjuat||

    I, like Sleeping-in-Vagina below, thought it was FLOTUS for about a millisecond.

  • ||

    **Adds Atanarjuat to list.**

  • ||

    We should fund Lasik surgery for the guy who knocked her up.

  • gaijin||


    We should fund Lasik surgery for the guy who knocked her up.

    He thought he was screwing Amy Winehouse...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    As meth is by no means a narcotic, it will be interesting to see how law enforcement tries to justify Loyola's arrest under this statute.

    All is fair in drug love and drug war.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    You've got to get up pretty early to post without FoE commenting first, but it happens, I see!

  • Agammamon||

    Its the meth. Not even once.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It only counts in Links and special posts. Draw us a Friday Funnies [sic] and post that, ENB, and we'll see who's the first knocking at your door.

  • Swiss Servator, Alles Klar||

    I am certain the TN Legislature included a FYTW clause, right?

  • WTF||

    The FYTW clause is just understood. Like in the Constitution. You just have to interpret it right to get the result you want.

  • ||

    Thanks, ENB. I had my hopes up that Michelle,Obama had been locked up for smoking meth. Then I read the story,and realized it was just another prole being jailed for her (idiotic and immoral by my standards) lifestyle.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    I will admit I now think I made a poor headline choice here.

  • Agammamon||

    No, no - this is a great headlie. I mean *headline*.

  • ||

    this is a great headlie

    That's Headley!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoM-ZC7uNnc

  • Steve G||

    But addiction isn't rational, and addicts don't generally respond to the same incentives a non-addict would

    Who said she is an addict?
    I understand this line of thought, but meanwhile this site routinely argues the idea that drugs aren't nearly as addicting as we've all been led to believe and use=/abuse=/addiction.
    Maybe she's just the low-judgment sort who got a little tired of the 3rd trimester and wanted a little chemical relief a few days before downloading.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    ^This. Come on reason, don't parrot the drug warriors' talking points for them!

  • Agammamon||

    . . . it will be interesting to see how law enforcement tries to justify Loyola's arrest under this statute.

    They don't have to. Worst case scenario (or the prosecution) - the defense attorney gets the charges dismissed but she gets re-arrested and charged with missing a scheduled court date related to the original charge.

    All while her child is in state care. Then she has to find the money to fund an attorney to fight through CPS - since its a civil, not criminal matter, she won't be eligible for legal relief.

    The *process* is the punishment.

  • prolefeed||

    Umm ... why exactly were they testing the baby for drugs? Did the mom consent to this testing? Was she at the hospital voluntarily, and if so, don't they need her consent to do things?

    So many questions for a competent defense attorney to explore.

  • Brett L||

    IIRC, my wife's consent to deliver at the hospital by her OB\GYN's practice included any and all post-natal testing to ensure optimal health of the baby or some-such. If we didn't like it, we were welcome to obtain a midwife and deliver at home or at the midwife delivery location (I don't know what the general name for this is, but about two blocks from the hospital they have a place called "The Birth Cottage" that is kind of a half-way step between home delivery and hospital delivery.)

  • sarcasmic||

    It's not like people read those reams and reams of paperwork that they must sign before the hospital will do anything. I'm sure that she gave consent on one of the pages.

  • Tonio||

    Not sure if that TN law requires that, but it's a good bet that it does. After all, why just make something illegal without adding further mechanisms to meddle in peoples' lives. Alternately, due diligence on the part of the hospital in case they have to deal with an infant in withdrawal.

    Most people do not read the release forms they sign. And it's also possible she was already doped up (on hospital meds) when she signed.

    It's going to take either a court case or legislation to fix this, but don't hold your breath because this is a "no reasonable person", "for the children" issue. We've lost this one and it won't change until there are no drug restrictions.

  • Slammer||

    Tennessee: "We will replace the possible harm to a baby from it's mother's drug use during pregnancy with the definite harm of putting the mother in a cage, the infant in state run foster care, and both in the state run legal system. Why? Because we CARE about people and want only GOOD for them."

  • Rich||

    Come on, Elizabeth. *Everybody* knows "narcotic"=="drug".

  • Rich||

    Alt alt-text:

    "No, definitely not her. The perp was only 5'3".

  • ||

    I prefer to think her skull extends skywards inside that updo

  • Rich||

    *slap!*

  • ||

    *slap!*

  • ||

    She looks like the lead singer in a tweaker-B52's cover band.

  • wareagle||

    so we toss her in jail for a year, which should do wonders for her future employability. In all likelihood, the baby will be in her care, probably on Medicaid while she collects welfare in a home subsidized by the taxpayer. But hey, the drug war boner has to be stroked.

  • SugarFree||

    Who cares if they can prove the baby was harmed? Don't we have to treat all guns like they are loaded?

  • Tonio||

    The practical effect of this is that drug-using pregnant women will avoid the hospitals at all costs. So, look for an upsurge in home deliveries attended by midwives and paramedics.

  • jmomls||

    So, let me get this straight.

    It's libertarian to spike non-consenting human beings with drugs?

    Finding it hard to work up my moral outrage on this.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement