March 23, 2016
Empowered, Invested & Committed to Reproductive Justice
(MEMPHIS,TN) -  Statement from Cherisse A. Scott, Founder & CEO, SisterReach on the defeat of House Bill 1660

"We are thankful that a bi-partisan effort in the House Criminal Justice subcommittee, by a vote of 3 to 3, defeated HB 1660.  Pregnant women who before today faced the possibility of up to 15 years in prison and the loss of their parenting rights indefinitely, 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 detox through the drug court will end as scheduled.

The legacy of this law and its companion bills has created a hostile healthcare environment for pregnant mothers who had become terrified to seek prenatal care because of this legislation. The punitive nature of this legislation also forced mothers to consider having abortions for wanted pregnancies to avoid jail time. Because of the defeat of this law, p regnant mothers struggling with addiction have a better chance of maintaining custody of their children while they seek out rehabilitation and TN Families have a fighting chance of staying together.

We tha nk our l egislative champions : Rep. Mike Stewart, D -Nashville, Rep. Raumesh Akbari, D- Memphis and Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, who came together in bipartisan solidarity against this punitive measure and brought us over the finish line. We thank them for prioritizing the health care of their constituents over politics. 

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 their children.

Our next steps include hearing from and working with women who can inform us about what their needs and barriers look like so that we can work with our legislators and state partners to ensure that a bill like this is never again an option to be considered.

Reproductive Justice was realized yesterday. Mothers will receive  non-hostile, non-predatory prenatal and behavioral health care that centers their health, wellness and their families FIRST. "


Cherisse Scott is available for interviews upon request at 901.310.5488 or
SisterReach | 901.222.4425 | I