By Pat Loeb
NEW JERSEY (CBS) — The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that taking illegal, addictive drugs during pregnancy is not a form of child abuse.
The court ruled in the case of a Cape May, NJ woman whose son was born with cocaine in his system.
The state’s Division of Youth and Family Services thought this was cause for a Family Protection Plan, placing conditions on the parents to maintain custody of the baby and his half-brother.
Two lower courts agreed, but the state Supreme Court ruled that New Jersey’s child abuse law protects children only after they’re born, not in utero.
Public defender Janice Anderson, who represented the mother, says, “The case doesn’t weaken child protections, it clarifies that although we don’t condone drug use, there needs to be actual harm to the child that’s born.”
The court ruled that the baby, who is now five years old, showed no signs or injury or withdrawal despite the presence of cocaine in his stool.
State officials declined to comment on the ruling.