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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) – Pennsylvania’s highest court says mothers who use illegal drugs while pregnant can’t be considered perpetrators of child abuse against their newly born children under the state’s child protection law.

The court’s main opinion issued Friday says the law’s definition of a child doesn’t include fetuses or unborn children, and it says victims of perpetrators must be children.

Two justices who dissented say what should matter is when the injury manifests itself, and that can be after the child is born.

The case involves a child who spent 19 days in Williamsport Hospital last year after birth being treated for drug dependence that caused severe withdrawal symptoms.

The mother’s lawyer calls the decision a victory for public health and the rights of women and children.

RELATED: Pa. Newborn Drug Withdrawal Cases Up 1,000 Percent Over Last 17 Years

In 2017, a Butler County judge tossed out a felony assault charge against 30-year-old Kasey Dischman, who overdosed on heroin while seven months pregnant.

She had to have an emergency C-section and gave birth to a premature girl, who may suffer lasting injuries.

Dischman was initially charged with aggravated assault on an unborn child, but the judge later ruled state law protects pregnant women from such charges.

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