Bill Would Extend Child Abuse Protections to Unborn Children

Senator Don White (R-Indiana) is drafting legislation that will hold women who knowingly and willingly use illegal drugs while pregnant accountable for the abuse of the children.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on December 28 that mothers who use illegal drugs while pregnant cannot be charged with abuse of their newly born children under the state’s child protection law. Essentially, the Court ruled that Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) does not recognize fetuses as children.

“This ruling is truly disturbing and I believe it will have grave consequences,” said Senator White. “I will soon introduce legislation to address that ruling.  My legislation will be designed to specifically address situations where a pregnant woman knowingly and willfully takes illegal drugs.”

Senator White noted that Justice Christine Donohue, in presenting the majority opinion of the Court’s split-decision, stated that the wording of the current law failed to address unborn children. “Had the General Assembly intended to include a fetus or unborn child under the protections of the CPSL, it would have done so,” the Justice wrote.

“My bill will close the loophole in the law that was stressed by the Supreme Court,” said Senator White. “A pregnant woman puts the life and wellbeing of her unborn child on the line when she knowingly and intentionally uses illegal drugs. This is not just about accountability, but ultimately about the protection and welfare of the child. Regardless of what the Court may rule, a mother’s responsibility begins before her child is born and that should not be erased by a perceived ambiguity in the law.”