A matter of first impression in Ohio raises the question of whether the state crime of “corrupting another with drugs” can be applied to a pregnant woman with a substance use disorder (SUD).

In May 2021, Tara Hollingshead was charged with “corrupting another with drugs,” a first-degree felony, after she delivered a baby that tested positive for fentanyl. The Ohio law states that no person shall “by any means, furnish or administer a controlled substance to a pregnant woman or induce or cause a pregnant woman to use a controlled substance, when the offender knows that the woman is pregnant or is reckless in that regard.” During pre-trial motions, Ms. Hollingshead challenged the interpretation of the law to reach women in relation to the fetuses they carry. The court denied the motion and she was found guilty on April 28, 2022. Ms. Hollingshead appealed her conviction.

Several state and national organizations, including the American Medical Association, the Ohio Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, and the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, along with 31 individuals with expertise in the areas of maternal, fetal, and neonatal health, filed an amicus brief in support of in Ms. Hollingshead’s appeal. Amici urge the court to reverse the conviction, arguing that it was an impermissible expansion of the criminal code, contrary to the plain language and legislative history of the statute, and inconsistent with general rules of construction. They further reason that claims concerning substance use and pregnancy must be
supported by evidence-based scientific research and public health recommendations.

Expansion of the Ohio law would have profound and detrimental implications for the health and well-being for Ohio mothers and their families, likely deterring women from disclosing information about drug use to health care providers or pursuing prenatal care if they fear arrest, prosecution or imprisonment.

Read the amicus brief here.