“For Tennessee lawmakers, punishing pregnant women is more important than protecting fetal life.”

woman in handcuff with pregnancy test

(Image via RH Reality Check)

As I mentioned yesterday, Tennessee has officially become the first state in the country to criminalize drug use during pregnancy. The new law, which was signed by the Governor yesterday despite the best efforts of reproductive justice advocates, holds pregnant people criminally liable for harm caused to their fetuses or newborns. 

Over at The Nation, Michelle Goldberg points out that, in addition to being just generally terrible for the health of both pregnant people and fetuses, the law could lead to more abortions — since folks who have used drugs during pregnancy may opt to terminate (which, lest we forget, is still totally legal) instead of risking up to 15 years in prison. In fact, that was a concern expressed by at least some anti-choicers when the legislature was considering the bill.

But, as Goldberg notes, apparently most ultimately chose to prioritize punishing pregnant people over protecting fetal life. Which, given that anti-choicers consistently oppose things, like birth control and comprehensive sex-ed, that would reduce abortion rates, is hardly surprising — but telling nonetheless.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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