One of the first women arrested under Tennessee’s new law that criminalizes women who give birth to babies with drugs in their systems took her own life last month, Rosa Goldensohn and Rachael Levy report in the Nation:
At around midnight on November 13, Tonya Martin slipped out into the yard that separated her trailer from the one in which her grandparents live on a lot in the eastern hills of Tennessee. Just two months earlier, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department arrested Martin after she gave birth to a son. Her crime: delivering a child at Sweetwater Hospital with drugs—some kind of opioid—in his system.
Martin couldn’t shake her addiction or the depression that plagued her. The 34-year-old mother gave up the newborn for adoption. Not long after, Martin’s boyfriend found her dangling from the clothesline pole in her grandmother’s yard. He tried to resuscitate her, but it was too late. [The Nation]
The law was billed as an incentive for pregnant drug users to get treatment for their addictions before their babies were born, but because of Tennessee’s overcrowded, underfunded treatment system, many pregnant women who want help are being turned away. One woman who was denied drug treatment ultimately gave birth to her daughter in a car by the side of the road Goldensohn and Levy report. A doctor who works with pregnant addicts said that he knows some of his patients have fled the state to deliver and others have told him they’re going into hiding.
A bill that was touted as an incentive for healthy behavior is turning into a public health nightmare for women, their babies, and the community.
[Photo credit: Mahalie Stackpole, Creative Commons.]