BY BOB HOLT
A baby born with cocaine in its system was found not to have been abused by its Cape May County mother, according to a unanimous ruling by a New Jersey Supreme Court.
The Division of Youth and Family Services investigated the case after the child and the mother both tested positive for cocaine after the baby was born in 2007.
The mother said a friend spilled cocaine on her two days before she gave birth to the baby, according to Philly.com. And she said she tested positive for marijuana because she inhaled secondhand smoke from a cancer patient who smoked medical marijuana.
The Asbury Park Press reported that the mother, identified only as A. L., argued that state laws about child abuse and neglect don’t apply to a fetus and prenatal drug use doesn’t indicate abuse when the baby shows no other complications.
New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said that cases of child abuse have to take into account a parent’s right to "raise a child without undue interference by the state" against the state’s "responsibility to protect the welfare of children." According to NJ.com, Rabner said the appeal was not about the mother’s behavior when she was pregnant, but about “the meaning of the specific language in the abuse and neglect statute."
The court ruling said, according to eNews Park Forest, “On its own, a medical notation of a positive drug test does not tell us whether the mother is an addict or used an illegal substance on a single occasion.”
They added that the Division of Child Protection and Permanency can provide services to pregnant women, but only at the consent of the pregnant woman.
According to eNews Park Forest, Lynn Paltrow, of National Advocates for Pregnant Women said, “It is extremely important that the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized that pregnant women, children and families should not be deprived of their fundamental rights – including the right to family relationships – based on presumptions that are medically baseless.”