Hancock County (WVLT) - It's a crime that hurts the most innocent of victims.
Babies are born addicted to morphine because their mothers used the drug during pregnancy.
In one area county, four mothers currently face felony charges after allegedly shooting up in the months before their children were born.
They are Nina Marie Williams, Jennifer Renee Collins, Susan Ann Gilliam, and Angela D. Barnett.
Volunteer TV's Rob Pratt has more details.
Reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon usually involves a gun or a knife.
But in these cases, the deadly weapon is morphine.
Newborn babies can wind up in neo-natal intensive care for many reasons.
But when they end up there because their mothers used drugs during pregnancy, that's when prosecutors can step in.
"Any kind of drug use during pregnancy is very dangerous and could result in the death of the child. So our position is that by using drugs during pregnancy is reckless endangerment and that's a deadly weapon," said Connie Trobaugh, Assistant District Attorney, Hancock County.
"In about three percent of all pregnancies, there is illicit drug use and I think, just in what I see, it seems to be a lot higher than that," said Dr. Eric Delay, pediatrician in Morristown.
As a pediatrician, Dr. Delay sees the problems created by drug-abusing mothers-to-be.
He says babies are born with tremors, poor feeding, and a high-pitched cry.
Tests can confirm the presence of drugs and drug therapy can deal with the addiction.
But that's just the beginning of the hard road that lies ahead.
"We really don't know what the long-term effects are, there's been different hypothesis that these children are going to be developmentally delayed. They may be more likely to have attention deficit syndrome," said Dr. Delay.
If convicted of the felony reckless endangerment charges, the mothers could face up to two years in prison.
A leading prosecutor in Knox County says these types of prosecutions are relatively rare.
The fact that Hancock county, one of the smallest counties in the region, has four cases at once sends a strong message that this problem is starting to get more attention.
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