The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Friday that mothers who use illegal drugs during pregnancy cannot face prosecution for child abuse offenses.

According to The Associated Press, the ruling made by the state’s highest court came down to the state’s Child Protective Services Law (CPSL), which does not recognize fetuses as children.

"The fact that the actor, at a later date, becomes a person who meets one of the statutorily-defined categories of 'perpetrator' does not bring her earlier actions -- even if committed within two years of the child's bodily injury -- under the CPSL," Justice Christine Donohue wrote in her opinion, according to the news agency.


Two other justices on the court, Justices Sallie Mundy and Debra Todd, reportedly went on to say that what should matter when examining neglect cases is whether an “injury manifests at some point in time after the neglect as in cases of malnourishment from lack of food, or suffering from a severe diaper rash from failure to routinely change diapers.”

The ruling involved a case in which a child ended up spending over two weeks at a local hospital in Williamsport, Pa., last year after her birth for drug dependence treatment that led to severe withdrawal symptoms.

David Cohen, a lawyer representing the mother of the child in the case, celebrated the ruling as a victory for women’s and children’s rights on Friday, according to the news agency.

"There are many states that have decided by statute to label this type of behavior child abuse, but the majority do not," Cohen said in a statement reported by the AP.

"We think that's the right way to approach this, because this is a health issue and the worst thing you can do with a health issue is punish people,” he continued. “It drives people from treatment and it results in worse outcomes for everyone." 

At the time, however, Cohen said that his client does not have legal custody of her daughter.