Thank you for writing with your concerns; I only wish you had done so before posting your blog.Your initial reaction of confusion is certainly justified. However, I think Senator Marrero’s stance on reproductive rights speaks for itself; she is the most outspoken advocate for these issues in the State Senate. She certainly appreciates your acknowledgement of her record in your email. Obviously some of your readers are unfamiliar with this record; that is the only explanation I have for some of the vitriol directed at her in the comments of your blog. This is to be expected, of course, but I was still a little shocked at how quickly people were ready to lump her in with the anti-choice movement despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary.To understand the disparity between her intentions and the actual text of the bill requires a degree of understanding of some of the messier aspects of the legislative process (the “sausage making,” if you’re familiar with the expression).When a legislator has an idea for a bill, he or she must communicate that idea to one of the staff attorneys, who do their best to translate often vague ideas into language that will fit into the Tennessee Code. Sometimes they are more successful than others. Representative Hackworth’s original intent was simply that pregnant women with substance addictions be provided with treatment options should they make the decision to carry the fetus to full term. Somehow, a miscommunication between Hackworth’s office and Legal Services resulted in the fundamentally flawed bill that has unfortunately captured the attention of the blogosphere. I will not pretend to understand how this happened, but rest assured that the bill’s flaws did not escape Senator Marrero’s attention when she agreed to be its sponsor in the Senate. However, there is a filing deadline for new legislation, and in this case, the bill had to be filed that day or not at all.Now the bill can be amended with any language that deals with that section of the Tennessee Code. I am already looking at a version being discussed by Senator Marrero, Representative Hackworth, and the designated staff attorney that does not require any testing of pregnant women whatsoever. Without belaboring the details of a work in progress, suffice to say that Senator Marrero will not support any legislation that will require drug or alcohol testing of unwilling mothers. She understands that this would be completely counterproductive, as so many have pointed out, due to the fact that it might discourage some women from seeking prenatal care. Moreover, she wholeheartedly supports the provision of the bill that makes any and all drug test results inadmissible in a criminal trial. This provision was in the original version of this bill (a fact that escaped nearly everyone with a comment to make), and will continue to be a cornerstone of the legislation as it moves forward.I hope this alleviates some of the concerns you and your readers have. Moreover, I hope that you feel free to write directly, or post on your blog, any suggestions you have that would help us craft a bill that will address the problem of neonatal abstinence syndrome without infringing on the fundamental control that women must have over their own bodies.Rest assured that Senator Marrero remains your strongest advocate here at the capitol.Sincerely,Cory Bradfield
Senator Beverly Marrero
P.S. Feel free to post any part of this letter that you feel will contribute to a productive discussion; I will probably join in myself as a civilian when on my home computer.
Yes, I have quibbles, of course, but I just can’t bring myself to them at the moment. I’m just glad to see this.