Has New Jersey Stepped Back to The Dark Ages?
While science is improving childbirth and prenatal care to the point that most civilized people now take both for granted, the New Jersey Supreme Court today took a giant leap backwards, or is the Legislature to blame? The Associated Press reports:
Court sides with mom whose baby had drug in system
NEWARK, N.J. - A New Jersey woman didn’t neglect or abuse her baby even though the boy was born with cocaine in his system, New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a decision that reversed lower-court findings.
The court ruled unanimously in the case of a Cape May County woman identified only as “A.L.”
The baby boy was born in September 2007 and tested positive for cocaine but was otherwise healthy and was discharged within two days, according to court documents. The positive test and the mother’s positive test for cocaine prompted an investigation by the Division of Youth and Family Services.
When questioned, A.L. denied using cocaine while pregnant and said she ingested it two days earlier when a bag of cocaine held by a friend spilled on her. She also blamed a positive marijuana test on secondhand smoke. A judge called those explanations “preposterous” in 2008 and agreed with DYFS that she had abused and neglected the child. An appeals court upheld the ruling in 2011.
In Wednesday’s ruling, the Supreme Court agreed with A.L.’s argument that state law governing child abuse and neglect doesn’t apply to a fetus and that evidence of prenatal drug use isn’t enough to support a finding of abuse when the baby exhibits no post-birth complications.
“Court decisions in New Jersey have declined to extend the reach of a statute to an unborn child when the statute refers to a ‘person’ or a ‘child,’” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote. “Because the abuse and neglect statute, by its terms, does not extend to a fetus, the law’s protection is limited to the condition of a child after birth.”
Rabner added that though the court doesn’t condone the use of cocaine, the case is about the specific language in the abuse and neglect statute and not about the morality of A.L.’s behavior.
Is it now open season on children in the weeks leading up to their birth? This is insane on so many levels. How many children will suffer needlessly before our Legislature acts?
While the first reaction may be to lambaste the court, it is important to remember that we go ballistic when they legislate from the bench. They can, and should, be taken to task for picking and choosing when they legislate from the bench.
The problem with today’s ruling, as shocking and horrific as it is, appears to be with the Legislature.
How long will it take the Legislature to address their own appalling lack of common sense?
You can follow Rob Eichmann on Twitter: Follow @RobEichmannNJ