A petition will be delivered to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today asking him to veto legislation that would allow women to be criminally charged for drug use during pregnancy.
Healthy and Free Tennessee, a coalition that promotes sexual health and reproductive freedom, said on social media that a petition with more than 10,000 signatures will be taken to Haslam at noon.
The petition arrives amid a national wave of attention on state lawmakers' approval of a criminal penalty against pregnant women — a move that brought back the kind of criminal charges they eliminated two years ago.
Haslam has already heard from state and national advocates for constitutional and reproductive rights, including the ACLU of Tennessee, which asked him last week to veto Senate bill 1391 and House bill 1295.
A spokeswoman for the governor said last week that he hadn't reviewed the legislation. He has until Tuesday to veto it, according to the governor's office.
Opponents to the legislation said bringing back the criminal penalty would erase protections for addicted women and drive them away from prenatal care and addiction treatment out of fear they could now be jailed. They've also questioned the measure's constitutionality.
Debate has been fierce in the past three years about what to do to stem the rising number of babies born drug dependent in Tennessee.
Lawmakers eliminated the criminal penalty two years ago and the state Department of Health began requiring hospitals to report babies born with what is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, a painful condition that can include seizures, vomiting and hyperactivity.
Then last year the Safe Harbor Act took effect, giving pregnant women priority access to addiction treatment and protecting custody rights to their children as long as they are getting help.
But prosecutors pushed to bring back the criminal penalty. The Senate passed its version of the bill 26-7 and the House passed it 64-30.