07/16/2014 02:30 pm ET Updated Sep 15, 2014

A Controversial New Law Can Charge Pregnant Women With Assault

Addiction is such an incredibly powerful disease that I understand how people canfeel a certain way about it. However, with my own personal experience plus my education on the subject, I wish I was seeing different headlines out of Tennessee. Instead of feeding off of the shock factor, I wish there was a better understanding about addiction (and a stronger acceptance that it is a disease).

Tennessee has put forth a new state law that will charge any woman with assault if they use drugs or alcohol while pregnant. On one hand, many people in the area (as well as throughout the country), see this as being a good thing. I, on the other hand, share a different opinion because I think criminalizing substance abuse while pregnant can do more harm than good.

I think this kind of punishment for pregnant women can be a double-edged sword. We know (despite any kind of stigma that is out there) that addiction has scientifically been proven to be a disease. The women who are caught in between being pregnant and being addicted are most likely not using with the intent of hurting their child. Sheriff Bill Bivens of Monroe County in Tennessee said, "anytime someone is addicted and they can't quit for their own child, their own flesh and blood, it's sad."

He is absolutely right, however I think his comment comes with some naiveté. Of course it is sad to see a pregnant woman harm both herself and her unborn baby, but it is likely unintentional. We should be viewing this statement as addiction being so powerful that even the impending birth of a child to a mother sometimes cannot put an end to these behaviors -- that's how strong it is, and it has nothing to do with choice.

In my opinion, I believe there needs to be more awareness for addiction amongst pregnant women, as opposed to legal action. Those who have put the law into motion claim it is to drive women to seek help, but I see it doing the opposite. There need to be places for these women to go to get help without fear of being charged with a crime, like special facilities. It could also be helpful to force treatment instead of legal trouble, as treatment can help bring about a positive outcome for both the mother and the child.

When I was using, I did it even though I wanted to stop. I honestly couldn't quit until I was truly ready to make the commitment to get sober. Even though I got arrested and faced legal trouble, I kept using. In my opinion, nothing is going to stop these women from using but the option for a place to go to get help when they are ready.