Ala. Supreme Court Rules Child Endangerment Law Applies to Pregnant Women

January 16, 2013 — The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday upheld a lower court ruling that a state law prohibiting the chemical endangerment of children can be used to charge a woman for allegedly endangering her fetus during pregnancy, the AP/Columbus Republic reports (AP/Columbus Republic, 1/11).

The court's ruling upheld the convictions of two women whom the state said exposed their fetuses to drugs by using illicit drugs during pregnancy, according to a statement by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R). In one case, the woman was charged after she and her newborn tested positive for cocaine in 2000. In the other case, the woman was charged after an autopsy ruled that her infant died of "acute methamphetamine intoxication" following a premature birth in 2008. Both women pleaded guilty in the cases and were sentenced.

Strange said the court ruled that "the plain meaning of the word 'child' in the chemical endangerment statute includes unborn children."

He called the ruling a "tremendous victory" that "affirmed the value of all life, including those of unborn children whose lives are among the most vulnerable of all" (Faulk, Birmingham News, 1/11).