The House Judiciary Committee just voted 6-3 to pass HB 215, taking its first step toward making Wyoming the only state in the country to criminalize women as felons for struggling with drug addictions while pregnant.
HB 215, titled “Drug induced infant endangerment”, was introduced by Representatives Blackburn, Jennings, Olsen, Winters, and Senator Driskill. This draconian bill would make ingesting, inhaling, or injecting methamphetamine or narcotic drugs while pregnant a felony punishable by five years in prison. If a newborn dies and the death can be in any way linked to the mother’s use of meth or narcotic drugs, she could spend 10 years in prison and her life as a felon.
In 2014, Tennessee passed a similar law; there, however, the charge was a misdemeanor, and the law was still deemed to be a failure. The law was allowed to expire in 2016 after several women testified they did not seek treatment for their addictions while pregnant for fear of prosecution.
If HB 215 passes, women in Wyoming who are pregnant and need treatment for addictions may be less likely to seek treatment. Women in Tennessee reported having unsupervised home births rather than going to a hospital for fear of losing their child. Additionally, sending a new mother to prison, rather than allowing her to enter treatment and continue to care for her child, would tear families apart.
HB 215 provides no new avenues for women to access treatment programs, no additional funding for drug addiction counseling, and no increased focus on education to lower the risk of drug use in Wyoming. All this bill does is criminalize women and new mothers who are already struggling.
The Wyoming Legislature should learn from Tennessee’s mistake, and stop HB 215 from becoming law.