Ohio Court Rules Pregnant Mothers Can Legally Self-Inject Narcotics


ZANESVILLE, Ohio – An appeals court recently decriminalized narcotics abuse by pregnant mothers, which has overruled a decision made by a Muskingum County judge.

Zanesville’s first baby of 2023 was born addicted to fentanyl and methamphetamine, spending more than a month in the NICU to detox from the substance and setting the tone for the rising seriousness of drug abuse in Muskingum County.

Muskingum County Prosecutor Ron Welch explained the effects the appeals court decision will have as well as steps that will need to be taken to fix the problems that stem from the decision.

“What it does is it prevents us as an office from prosecuting individuals, expectant mothers, who are using fentanyl or other narcotics that are impacting their newborn children. We have a number of children that are born that are locally taken care of at Genesis at an Intensive Care Unit essentially for drug addicted babies. We were hoping that by use of this law we could be able to limit some of the mothers that continually have drug addicted babies,” Welch said.

The law that Muskingum County Common Pleas Judge Kelly Cottrill ruled, stated that anyone administering narcotics to a pregnant woman would be prosecuted. However, the appeals court determined that it was ok for the pregnant woman to administer the narcotics herself.

Welch believes that legislative action will need to be taken to fix the wording of the law to eliminate the loophole and preserve its intent. 

“I think it’s through legislation that provides us with the tools necessary to protect the children who are being impacted by this. And it’s not just the children that suffer, it’s society that suffers. Children that are born drug addicted have more difficult times adjusting as they grow up. There are parts of their brain that are not fully developed and all of those costs are passed on to society, as well as associated risk when the child’s brain doesn’t fully develop in a way that allows them to make good, rational decisions as they get older. Leading to a greater likelihood of addiction and criminal behavior,” Welch said.

In April of 2022, Muskingum County jurors found Tara Hollingshead guilty, after she admitted injecting herself with fentanyl in the hospital parking lot prior to the birth. 

Hollingshead’s case was believed to be the first time in Ohio that the law has been applied to a pregnant woman whose corruption with drugs was self-administered.

The short-term result of this decision will involve suspending prosecutions against four women this year alone who have been charged with poisoning their bodies while pregnant. It will also include the immediate release of Hollingshead from prison.


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