Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa, will host an interim study session at the Oklahoma Capitol on Wednesday to examine the state’s legal system and women who face criminal charges in connection with substance use during pregnancy. 

The Frontier has been reporting for the past two years on the growing number of criminal prosecutions in Oklahoma for substance use during pregnancy. A 2020 Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruling held women can be charged with child neglect for using illegal drugs during pregnancy — a felony that can carry up to a life sentence. Some women have also faced charges for using legal substances like medical marijuana.

Women can be prosecuted even after they give birth to healthy babies. Health care providers and policy experts told The Frontier fear of criminal prosecution can prevent mothers from seeking prenatal care or substance use treatment.

The Frontier and partners are continuing to report on how fetal personhood laws have contributed to the prosecution of women for substance use during pregnancy. The partners published a story in July that found hundreds of women who used drugs while pregnant have faced criminal charges — even when they deliver healthy babies.

The study session will be held in Room 4S5 at the Oklahoma State Capitol from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. before the Judicial Criminal Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Presenters will include: 

  • Dana Sussman, Interim Executive Director, Pregnancy Justice
  • Angela Hawkins, M.D., chair of the Oklahoma Section of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • Stephanie Pierce,  medical director for Oklahoma Mothers and Newborns Affected by Opioids 
  • Kaushiki Chowdhury, family defense practice lead for  Still She Rises
  • Heath Hayes, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services