Dermined the legality under Ohio law of prosecuting woman under child abuse law for ingesting cocaine during pregnancy that was present in newborn child.
In this 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.
Legal Momentum joined an amicus brief supporting a petition for review by the Ohio Supreme Court, and, after the Court decided to hear the case, 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.
The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed, 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.