Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Friday that women who use illegal drugs while pregnant cannot be prosecuted for child abuse offenses.
The state's highest court said the ruling came down to a Pennsylvania law that does not recognize fetuses as children. The Child Protective Services Law only protects children from abuse.
"The fact that the actor, at a later date, becomes a person who meets one of the statutorily-defined categories of 'perpetrator' does not bring her earlier actions -- even if committed within two years of the child's bodily injury -- under the CPSL," Justice Christine Donohue wrote for the majority.
"We conclude, based on the relevant statutory language, that a mother cannot be found to be a perpetrator of child abuse against her newly born child for drug use while pregnant."
Donahue said that had the CPSL intended to include an unborn child, it would have included it in the wording of the law.
The ruling came about as the result of a case against a woman who gave birth to a baby addicted to drugs. Clinton County Children and Youth Services charged the mother with child abuse and removed the child from her care.
Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy voted against the ruling.
The baby "suffered bodily injury after birth when she began exhibiting withdrawal symptoms," Mundy wrote. "Therefore, the mother was the perpetrator of child abuse on (the baby) after birth, notwithstanding the fact that she ingested the drugs prior to birth."