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DA criticized for charging woman who overdosed while pregnant

July 14, 2017 Digital Media Exclusive

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Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger

Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger on Friday pushed back against criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union over his office's decision to charge an East Butler woman with felony assault, after an alleged heroin overdose resulted in what police say will be “lasting injuries” to her then-unborn daughter.

Kasey R. Dischman, 30, was charged after a June 22 incident that police say began when she injected a bag of heroin she found beneath her couch.

After being taken to the hospital, doctors performed an emergency C-section and Dischman gave birth to a baby girl whom police say was in poor health and suffering lasting injuries from the heroin.

Goldinger's office charged Dischman with aggravated assault of an unborn child under the Crimes Against the Unborn Child Act, a 1997 law that makes it a crime to kill or maim an unborn child, critics say that the statute also carves out an exception for pregnant women.

On Thursday the ACLU's Pittsburgh office took up the issue, saying that Goldinger's office was abusing its authority by using the 1997 statute to charge Dischman.

Goldinger on Friday declined to respond directly to the ACLU's remarks about the case, but said he doesn't believe the intent of lawmakers was to shield a defendant like Dischman from prosecution.

“I'm aware of the statute that they're referring to,” Goldinger said. “I don't believe that it was the Legislature's intent that a woman could be seven months pregnant, ingest so much heroin that she overdoses and jeopardizes her baby, and nothing can be done for it.”

Public defender Joe Smith said he believes Goldinger's interpretation of lawmakers' intent is “absolutely contrary to the plain language of the law,” and could have a chilling effect on some women's willingness to seek medical help for issues that negatively affect their unborn children.

A full report will appear in the Butler Eagle.

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