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House passes bill that punishes pregnant mothers who use narcotics

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The Wyoming House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that classifies use of methamphetamine or narcotics by a pregnant woman as child endangerment.

Riverton Representative Ember Oakley said the purpose of the SF 85 is to clear up a loophole where child endangerment laws don’t currently apply to a fetus. But many said the legislation will keep women who are using drugs from getting pre-natal care. The legislation is opposed by a number of health organizations.

Laramie Democrat Karlee Provenza argued that it’s better if the state provided drug users with help and treatment that help both the mother and baby.

“The care that they need to make sure their baby isn’t born with drug withdrawals, because baby’s born with drug withdrawals have far worse outcomes. And there are ways to mediate that and prevent that,” said Provenza.

Oakley, who is a Fremont County prosecutor, said the law would make sure the women using drugs would get such help and then potential offenders would not be able to walk away from treatment. She noted that the bill first provides probation and treatment before a more severe sentence such as imprisonment.

The legislation now advances to the Senate.

Bob Beck has been News Director of Wyoming Public Radio since 1988. During his time as News Director WPR has won over 100 national, regional and state news awards.
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