The Rogers County District Attorney’s Office said for the first time in Oklahoma, a woman is charged with child neglect for taking illegal drugs while pregnant.
A decision by the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals said an unborn child is considered a person in Oklahoma for the purpose of child neglect cases.
Rogers County prosecutors filed a child neglect charge against Kearline Anderson more than two years ago. The criminal appeals court decision means the case will move forward with that charge.
Prosecutors said in the summer of 2018 Anderson was in her third trimester and showed up to the hospital, admitting she smoked heroin a couple days earlier. Prosecutors said she tested positive for meth.
"Your job as a parent, as a mother is to protect your child,” Rogers County Assistant District Attorney Kali Strain said.
Strain said Thursday’s decision by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is a win for her case.
"It's a success in our eyes as our ability to protect these children,” Strain said.
The decision means unborn children are included in the definition of a "child" in the court when it comes to neglect and abuse cases. Strain said it doesn't matter how far along a woman is in her pregnancy.
"The court of criminal appeals held that for purposes of child neglect, a unborn child is considered a person and a potential victim from the point of conception through birth,” she said.
The district attorney's office said the ruling does not address the issue of abortion.
Anderson is innocent until proven guilty and has only been charged at this point. Her attorney did not immediately respond to a request for interview or comment.