By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE Tenn. (Reuters) - Tennessee prosecutors are temporarily delaying their pursuit of an assault charge against a woman for allegedly taking methamphetamine while she was pregnant, so they can see how she does in drug treatment, officials said on Wednesday.
Mallory Loyola, 26, of Madisonville in eastern Tennessee, was the first woman arrested under the controversial new state law after both she and her newborn baby tested positive for the illegal drug last month, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
Under a deal with prosecutors, Loyola pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a probation violation, but a hearing on her assault case was postponed until February. She will remain in custody until a bed opens for her at a Knoxville treatment facility.
Prosecutors plan to see how she does in treatment and then decide how to handle the assault charge, Stephen Crump, district attorney general, said on Wednesday. He didn't say whether the charge would be dropped.
"I am pleased that the defendant in the case was very remorseful and really wanted to be responsible and correct her behavior so she could be a good mother," Crump said.
Loyola's arrest and the new assault law grabbed the attention of women's rights groups, including the New York-based National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which fear it will scare pregnant women from seeking medical treatment.
Crump said the legislation was intended to protect children but also to create a framework for requiring responsible behavior by parents.
(Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Eric Beech)