Rewire: PA Supreme Court Could Decide Whether Using Drugs During Pregnancy Is Child Abuse

Can a woman’s behavior while pregnant be considered child abuse under civil law?

That’s the fundamental question in a case co-counseled by attorneys at Women’s Law Project and Robert Lugg of Lugg & Lugg in Lock Haven.

As we recently told you, we have petitioned the state Supreme Court to take up the case because it has significant ramifications for both the rights of pregnant people and public health.

From a new must-read story published in Rewire:

The state’s Child Protective Services Law was enacted as a civil statute to prevent child abuse and protect children from further abuse. The law defines child abuse as “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly … causing bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.” It primarily concerns requirements when it comes to reporting child abuse. The trial court ruled that the Pennsylvania law “does not provide for finding of abuse due to actions taken by an individual upon a fetus.”

But the appeals court disagreed, despite the fact that the child abuse statute was not intended to ensnare pregnant people.

“We cannot allow Pennsylvania to punish pregnancy in this manner,” says Professor David S. Cohen, a WLP Board Member who is co-counsel on the case (along with WLP Executive Director Carol Tracy). “If women can be found to be child abusers based on actions taken while pregnant, almost any activity could ultimately lead to such a finding, such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, exercising too much, traveling to a foreign country, and so on.”

You can read our petition here.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

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About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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