HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS/AP) — Pennsylvania’s highest court says mothers who use illegal drugs while pregnant can’t be considered perpetrators of child abuse against their newly born children under the state’s child protection law.
The court’s main opinion issued Friday says the law’s definition of a child doesn’t include fetuses or unborn children. It recognizes that victims of perpetrators must be children.
Two justices who dissented say what should matter is when the injury manifests itself, and that can be after the child is born.
In Dec. 2017, Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Moulton submitted an opinion, stating that a mother’s substance abuse while pregnant “may constitute child abuse” if child welfare authorities can prove she “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused, or created a reasonable likelihood of, bodily injury to a child after birth.”
While a judge said he agreed with Moulton’s opinion, he challenged it by stating, “There is also no doubt that most pregnant women who use illegal drugs during their pregnancies do so not because they wish to harm their child, but because they are addicted to the drugs.”
The case involves a child who spent 19 days in Williamsport Hospital last year after birth being treated for drug dependence that caused severe withdrawal symptoms.
The mother’s lawyer calls the decision a victory for public health and the rights of women and children.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)