Recently, the Kentucky Supreme Court made this decision:
Kentucky Supreme Court: Pregnant Woman Taking Illegal Drugs Can't Be Charged With Endangering Child
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a woman who takes illegal drugs while pregnant can't be charged with endangering her child.
In a 5-2 decision, the court held that such prosecutions are "expressly precluded" by the Maternal Health Act passed by the 1992 General Assembly.
The ruling came in the case of Ina Cochran of Casey County, who was indicted on a charge of first-degree wanton endangerment after giving birth in late 2005 to a child who tested positive for cocaine.
The indictment charged that Cochran exhibited "extreme indifference to the value of human life ... when she ingested cocaine" while pregnant.
The charge was dismissed by the trial court, but that decision was reversed by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
On Thursday the state's high court ruled that the trial court was correct and dismissed the indictment
"We would have to ignore the legislative intent clearly expressed ... to accept the Commonwealth's position that the penal code permits the prosecution of Cochran for wanton endangerment of her child," the unsigned opinion said. "... It is the legislature, not the judiciary, that has the power to designate what is a crime."
National women's rights groups and medical groups that filed friend of the court briefs on Cochran's behalf hailed the decision.
"We are delighted," said Jill Morrison, senior counsel for the National Women's Law Center in Washington. "The majority in this case acknowledged that the problem of drug abuse during pregnancy is best handled not through the criminal justice system but with treatment and greater access to health care."
Brian Wright, commonwealth's attorney for Casey and Adair counties and the prosecutor in the case, expressed disappointment.
"I think it perhaps endangers human life in the future," he said.
But Jamesa Drake, an assistant public advocate who represented Cochran, said Thursday's ruling properly recognizes the intent of the 1992 law.
"Criminal prosecution has the disastrous unintended effect of discouraging women from being fully forthcoming with their treatment providers about the nature and extent of their substance abuse or any risky behavior," Drake said. "And it encourages them to give birth in non-hospital settings or, in extreme cases, to terminate a pregnancy."
Personally, I think it is a poor decision on the part of the Kentucky Supreme Court, but I'm wondering if there is more to it than what is reported in the article. Could someone help me understand the logic behind the decision? It baffles me that if someone were to murder a pregnant woman, they are convicted of two murders, whereas if a pregnant woman knowingly takes illicit drugs, she's not charged with endangering the life of her child.