(CN) - A Tennessee mother severely abused her child by using drugs during her pregnancy, a state appeals court ruled, rejecting the mother's claim that she couldn't be charged with child abuse, because the unborn fetus was not a "child."
The referee who tried the case said the mother had abused several drugs while pregnant, including methadone, OxyContin, methamphetamine, cocaine and Valium.
Her son was born prematurely and had to be treated for opiate withdrawal symptoms.
The referee found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the child had been severely abused by his mother's prenatal drug use.
The appellate panel rejected the mother's appeal, which hinged on the definition of a child under Tennessee law.
The state Department of Child Services said this argument misses the point, as the fetus became a child at birth, with injuries stemming from his mother's drug use.
Judge Charles Susano Jr. agreed, saying the infant had the "right to begin life free from the impairment of drug addiction and other ill effects of prenatal drug abuse."