A woman known as “Yvonne” used prescription methadone as per doctor’s orders during her pregnancy. The result: A baby born addicted to meth. Having been addicted to painkillers that were prescribed to her following a car accident, Yvonne made full disclosure to her obstetrician. She was then advised to take the methadone in order to fight her addiction.
NJ True Jersey reported that in 2011, when Yvonne’s baby boy was born and exhibited signs of meth addiction, she was charged with child abuse. According to ABC News, a family court judge not only ruled in favor of the state, but also cited additional factors –- including past drug history. Thus, Yvonne was allowed custody of her baby, but only under state supervision. Yvonne appealed the decision but it was overturned because of “the fact that the defendant obtained the methadone from a legal source does not preclude our consideration of the harm it caused to the newborn.”
In what is considered a “win” for health-care rights, New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled in Yvonne’s favor, stating that a mother who uses a drug as prescribed by a doctor to fight drug addiction during pregnancy cannot be found guilty of abuse. This is significant because the decision will help other mothers feel comfortable offering full disclosure to their obstetricians without fear of losing their new infants.
In speaking with the Addiction Treatment Forum, Sally Friedman, legal director for the Legal Action Center said, “It is wrong, counterproductive, and dangerous to charge a pregnant woman with child abuse simply because she is in a methadone maintenance program.” The decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court this week will ensure that doesn’t happen again.