by Jill Morrison, Senior Counsel,
National Women's Law Center
I am happy to report that the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the state cannot use its criminal endangerment statute to prosecute women for using drugs while pregnant. We submitted a brief in support of Ms. Ina Cochran, who was charged with wanton endangerment because her newborn tested positive for cocaine exposure. Prosecutors across the nation have attempted to criminalize women’s acts during their pregnancies.
The trial court dismissed the indictment against Ms. Cochran, but the Attorney General’s office successfully appealed, allowing the prosecution to proceed. Ms. Cochran then appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court and it ruled that the trial court correctly dismissed the indictment. We wholeheartedly agree with the Court's rationale: while drug addiction during pregnancy is a serious problem, it should be handled within the health care system, and not the criminal justice system.