Women In Ohio Can Take Fentanyl And Other Opioids While Pregnant, Court Rules

Shutterstock/Aldeca Productions

Font Size:

The Fifth District Court of Appeals in Ohio has ruled that a pregnant woman cannot be criminally charged for injecting fentanyl and other opioids into her body while pregnant.

Fifth District Court of Appeals Judges Craig Baldwin, Andrew King, and William Hoffman ruled May 22 that it is not a crime for women to inject themselves with drugs on the way to deliver a baby, according to a press release from the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s office.

Previously, Ohio law contended that “No person shall knowingly do any of the following: By any means, … administer a controlled substance to a pregnant woman … or cause a pregnant woman to use a controlled substance, when the offender knows that the woman is pregnant or is reckless in that regard,” the release stated. The court’s May 22nd ruling added an element to the law however, requiring the administrator of the drugs to be someone other than the mother in order to be criminally charged. In so doing, the prosecutor’s office argued, “the court wrote its own version of the law, and decriminalized previously prohibited behavior.”

The immediate fallout of the court’s decision will suspend prosecutions against four women, who were charged this year with injecting opioids into their bodies while pregnant. In one such case, an infant born in 2023 to one of the accused spent more than a month in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in order to detox from fentanyl and methamphetamine, the press release stated. (RELATED: ‘Devastating’: How The Drug Crisis Is Hurting America’s Youngest People)

The order will also call for the immediate release of Tara Hollingshead who was found guilty and sentenced to a mandatory term of eight to 12 years in prison in 2022 on a first-degree felony count of corrupting another with drugs when her baby was born addicted to fentanyl, the release stated.

The Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office has stated they will appeal the court’s decision to the Ohio Supreme Court as part of its “ongoing mission to provide protection to children of addicted parents, no matter when the abuse begins.” The prosecutor’s office is further calling on the Ohio General Assembly to “provide additional clarity” to the statute by passing legislation that will address the issue of pregnant women partaking in the use of controlled substances and in so doing, harming their unborn children, the release stated.