Tennessee Woman Charged With Assault For Using Meth While Pregnant

By Paul Gaita 07/15/14

Mallory Loyola is the first woman charged under the state's controversial new law.

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A 26-year-old woman has become the first person in Tennessee to be charged under a controversial new state law that makes it a crime to use drugs while pregnant.

Mallory Loyola was arrested this week after both she and her newborn baby tested positive for methamphetamine use. The law, signed by Governor Bill Haslam in May and in effect as of July 1, grants law officials the right to charge and prosecute a pregnant woman with assault for using an illegal substance while pregnant if the child is harmed or becomes addicted to the drug. Loyola was subsequently released on $2,000 bail and received a misdemeanor charge.

The bill has generated considerable opposition since it passed through both houses of the Tennessee legislature in early April. Michael Botticelli, former acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, stated in April that “what’s important is that we create environments where we’re really diminishing the stigma and the barriers, particularly for pregnant women…about their substance abuse disorders.” Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood also voiced similar discontent.

However, Bill Bivens, sheriff of Monroe County, where Loyola was arrested, saw the arrest as a positive move. “Hopefully, it will send a signal to other women who are pregnant and have a drug problem to seek help. That’s what we want them to do,” he said. A provision of the law allows individuals who sought and completed treatment prior to being charged to use that program as defense.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.