The definition of child abuse would expand to include a child subject to prenatal exposure to a controlled, dangerous substance under a new bill introduced by Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon.

“The genesis of this bill was a recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that an abuse and neglect finding can’t be sustained in the case of a pregnant woman who used drugs and then gave birth to a child who later tested positive for cocaine,” explains O’Scanlon. “This struck me as egregious. The Supreme Court may be interpreting the current statute correctly, but that just means we need to change the law.”

The ruling also stated that the mother in question had tested positive for marijuana in her fifth month of pregnancy, although she denied ever using drugs. The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the ‘language of the abuse and neglect statute reveals that it applies to a child and not a fetus.’

“It’s a legal paradox that needs to be corrected. Would-be mothers should be held accountable for their actions while pregnant,” insists O’Scanlon.

“If in New Jersey a judge can take into account the loss of the fetus when sentencing an individual found guilty of assault on a pregnant mother, why shouldn't a mother's actions that put her unborn child in danger also be punishable?”