The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, in its collective wisdom, reversed the decision of a lower court and has ruled that women 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.
Why, you might ask?
In the 16-page opinion, issued Friday, in which the mother is anonymously referred to by initials, the court’s majority determined the law’s definition of a child doesn’t include fetuses or unborn children —- opining victims of perpetrators must be children —- “a person under 18 years of age” —- just not too far under that interpretation.
A 1997 statute specifically exempts pregnant women and abortion providers from facing charges in the death of a pre-born baby.
Two justices who dissented waffled, saying what should matter is when the injury manifests itself, and that can be after the child is born.
This case involves a newborn girl who was hospitalized for 19 days last year undergoing treatment for drug addiction that caused severe withdrawal symptoms. Her mother resumed drug use after being released from jail two weeks before the baby was born in January 2017. At the time of birth, she tested positive for opiates, marijuana and benzodiazepines.
The mother’s lawyer, David S. Cohen, called the high court’s decision a victory for public health and the rights of women and children. His client does not have custody of the child. Though not surprising, the Pennsylvania branch of the far left American Civil Liberties Union also holds the opinion that women should not face criminal charges for using illicit drugs while pregnant saying it stigmatizes them and makes them fearful.
In Pennsylvania, pre-born children are not fortunate enough to legally count, although they are able to have life saving, in utero surgery performed on their tiny living bodies.
Five of the seven Justices are Democrats.