When giving birth is a crime

In 2014, giving birth to a baby with drugs in its system in Tennessee was made a crime. I spent six months investigating the effects of this new law, reporting from Tennessee and co-writing a 4,000-word piece that appeared in The Nation. My colleague and I found a trend of women being driven underground and avoiding prenatal care and drug treatment in order to protect themselves from the punitive effects of the law. We learned that pregnant women who wanted drug treatment found themselves in a Catch-22 where they were unable to get it. We followed the women who were arrested under the law, including discovering one’s suicide.

The piece remains the most comprehensive to date on the effects that the law had on Tennessee’s drug-using women. It also was honored by Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists.

At the time, I spoke to WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, along with my colleague Rosa Goldensohn, about the piece. We undertook the project while we were students at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.