We are happy to announce that House Bill 1660 was defeated yesterday by a 3 to 3 vote in the House Criminal Justice subcommittee. In the midst of a very challenging legislative session with policy fights that often seem impossible to win, WE WON! And it feels GOOD!
WHAT DOES THIS DEFEAT MEAN?
Pregnant women who before today faced the possibility of up to 15 years in prison and the loss of their parenting rights, now have an opportunity to seek rehabilitation without the possibility of arrest. The defeat of this bill means that as of July 1, 2016 the original legislation (SB 1391) which incarcerates pregnant mothers and forces them into drug dependency treatment through the drug court will end.
WHAT THIS DEFEAT ALSO MEANS…
Pregnant mothers who had become terrified to seek prenatal care because of legislation that created a hostile healthcare environment between mothers and their doctors, may now receive non-hostile, non-predatory health care that centers their needs as mothers – FIRST.
The punitive nature of this legislation also forced mothers to have abortions for wanted pregnancies to avoid jail time.
Pregnant mothers struggling with addiction have a better chance of maintaining custody of their children while they seek out rehabilitation. TN Families have a fighting chance of staying together!
WHAT THIS DEFEAT DOES NOT MEAN…
One of the critical pieces SisterReach and our partners stressed before the initial legislation (SB 1391) passed in 2014, was the lack of rehabilitative health care facilities throughout the state of Tennessee for people struggling with drug dependency – in particularly, pregnant mothers. Though this bill was defeated, we are still faced with a disparity in rehabilitation facilities with the capacity to accept pregnant mothers and with their children.
There is more work to be done. But for this moment, we will celebrate!
From SisterReach, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Healthy & Free Tennessee and all of our state partners – we thank each and every one of you over these last two years who have worked to fight against this law. Special thanks to our SisterReach clergy cohort, TN faith leaders and people of faith who signed our letter to the legislature urging them not to pass HB 1660.
And to our Legislative Champions: Rep. Mike Stewart, D -Nashville, Rep. Raumesh Akbari, D- Memphis and Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, your coming together in bi-partisan solidarity against this punitive measure brought us over the finish line! We thank you for prioritizing health care over politics!
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY TO TENNESSEE MOTHERS…
We know there is much more work to be done to ensure that you can truly achieve Reproductive Justice around this issue. We are not done fighting for your human rights and we will not stop until the culture of legislative violence against women and girls ceases in our state. Thank you for trusting us.