USA: Tennessee “Fetal Assault” law a threat to women’s health and human rights

In April 2014, Tennessee enacted the first law of its kind in the United States to explicitly authorize assault charges against women who illegally use a narcotic drug during pregnancy. While this “fetal assault” law was intended to reduce drug use during pregnancy, the criminal provision poses grave health and human rights implications for women in Tennessee. It deters women from seeking health care services, in particular vital prenatal care. It has a discriminatory impact on women who already face poverty and marginalization. Criminalization of drug use during pregnancy is the wrong response to address a public health issue.

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