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Bill Related to Drug Rehab for Pregnant Women Passes State Affairs

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In a last-minute amendment, a House bill shifts from adding an assault charge for pregnant women with a controlled substance addiction to offering them a defense option. 

HB 1195 established an assault charge against a woman whose child is born with a controlled substance dependency. But an amendment strikes that charge and leaves an affirmative defense for the mother against drug charges if she enrolls in an addiction recovery program during pregnancy.

Representative and Prime Sponsor Spencer Gosch says this is his response to the drug epidemic in the state.

“In conversations with some of the local medical professionals, especially in the Mobridge area, we are talking about one in four babies being born on a controlled substance. That is a number we can no longer sit here and just take,” Gosch says.

Opponents say an additional charge is a deterrent for seeking care, but the last-minute amendment caught them off-guard.

Jason Rumpca is a lobbyist for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“While they had opposed—the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists had opposed--the initial version of the bill, I cannot state what their position would be at this time," Rumpca explains, "but I would certainly concede this version of the bill is a lot better than what the initial bill was.”

During committee discussion, Representative Gosch credits opponents for the changes and apologizes for introducing the amendment the same morning.

But not everyone agrees the bill solves a problem. Representative Tim Goodwin warns against unintended consequences of the defense.

“It’s gonna be out to all the communities that if you show up pregnant and you don’t have any health insurance, all’s you have to do is shake drugs and you get—it could happen! You can sit and shake your head, but don’t think it couldn’t be an unintended consequence.”

Goodwin was the only opposing vote, as the bill passes House State Affairs 11 to 1.