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First Woman Charged Under New Pregnancy Drug Law In Tennessee

A 26-year-old woman has been charged for using drugs while pregnant under a controversial law passed earlier this month.

Posted on July 15, 2014, at 12:57 a.m. ET

Mallory Loyola, 26, is the first woman to be charged with assault under a new Tennessee law that makes it a crime to take drugs while pregnant.

Monroe County Sheriff's Office

Deputies said they received a call from Department of Child Services after a baby girl was born Sunday at UT Medical Center and tested positive for meth. They arrested the 26-year-old mother as she was being discharged from the hospital, according to WATE-TV.

Loyola has a history of meth-related arrests.

Photos posted to Mallory Loyola's Facebook page.

The new law went into effect this month and allows a woman to be "prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant" if her infant is harmed or addicted to the drug. She can be charged with homicide if the baby dies.

Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens said the 26-year-old admitted to smoking meth just days before giving birth.

This photo was posted to Mallory Loyola's Facebook page on July 6.

The sheriff also said he hoped the arrest would deter other women from committing the crime.

Monroe County Sheriff's Office

"Hopefully it will send a signal to other women who are pregnant and have a drug problem to seek help. That's what we want them to do," he said.

The law came under fire with local and national critics saying it would hinder drug-addicted pregnant women from getting the help they need.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee is challenging the law, which they said raises "serious constitutional concerns regarding equal treatment under the law."

"This dangerous law unconstitutionally singles out new mothers struggling with addiction for criminal assault charges," Thomas Castelli, legal director of the ACLU Tennessee, said in a statement. "By focusing on punishing women rather than promoting healthy pregnancies, the state is only deterring women struggling with alcohol or drug dependency from seeking the pre-natal care they need."

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill in April, and said the intent of the law is to "give law enforcement and district attorneys a tool to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs."

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Loyola was released on $2,000 bail and was charged with a misdemeanor.

The new law allows anyone charged to use as a defense entering a treatment program before giving birth and successfully completing it afterward.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.