In re Baby Boy Blackshear

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  • Fairness in the Courts
  • Rights of Pregnant Women
  • Child Abuse
  • Parental Rights
  • Joined Amicus Brief
2000

Dermined the legality under Ohio law of prosecuting woman for child abuse for ingesting cocaine during pregnancy that was present in newborn child.

Summary of the Case

A county department of human services filed a complaint under Ohio's civil abuse statute against Tonya Kimbrough alleging that she had abused her "child" by ingesting cocaine during pregnancy. The trial court granted temporary custody of the child to the county department of human services and the appellate court affirmed, holding that a fetus is a "child" under the civil abuse statute. 

Our Role in the Case

Legal Momentum joined an amicus brief supporting a petition for review by the Ohio Supreme Court. After the Court decided to hear the case, we joined an amicus brief on the merits, both of which were filed by the Women's Law Project. The briefs described the public health consequences of the trial court's ruling and argued that such policies deterred women from seeking critical prenatal care.

Decision

The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision, reasoning that prenatal drug use revealed by a toxicology screen on the newborn baby supported a child abuse prosecution under the Ohio statute. The court avoided the question of whether the fetus was a person subject to abuse and instead focused on the condition of the newborn. Concurrences stated the case was limited to the facts and dissenters noted the state had not adequately probed whether there was any actual injury to the baby.