Woman Charged with Child Abuse for Drug Use During Pregnancy

Authorities in Suwannee County are going after mothers who take drugs while they are pregnant.

Teresa Piloto says she sat side by side her classmate at Suwannee-Hamilton Technical Center.

But, she says she had no idea that 24-year-old Penelope Fortescue was taking drugs while she was pregnant.

Piloto said, "She had her moments when you would be like, are you okay? But, she always seemed to be having so much fun and paying attention to the classes and always getting good grades. I honestly couldn't believe it when I heard that she was on drugs."

Suwannee County Lt. Wayne Musgrove says after an anonymous caller told him Fortescue's baby girl was born December 18th hooked on drugs, he says Fortescue admitted to taking oxycodone during her entire pregnancy.

Fortescue was charged with child abuse on February 22nd.

This is the first case of it's kind in Suwannee County.

Lt. Musgrove says deputies will now start investigating all children who are born addicted to drugs, and charges could be filed in those cases as well.

Lt. Musgrove said, "I hope that this is a case that will have ramifications throughout Florida, is that a selfish act by the mother of the child. To me, the important thing is the child."

Lt. Musgrove says Fortescue said she crushed the pills and then snorted them.

Suwannee County resident Brenda Cuppernell says she never did drugs while being pregnant, but says she can somewhat relate to Fortescue.

Cuppernell said, "I've been on drugs so I do know what it's like to be there. I don't want to judge someone that is there. So you can't say you're bad because you are there because I have been there, and it's a difficult place."

Lt. Musgrove says Fortescue would take her seven year old daughter with her to buy the drug.

Lt. Musgrove says that child and the baby girl are now in the custody of the baby's father.

He says that the baby had to be weaned off the drug in the hospital for about a month, but is said to be doing fine so far.

He says authorities are working on a similar case in Suwannee County at this time.

The following is a statement from The Public Policy Director for American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU), Courtenay Strickland:

“Studies indicate that when pregnant women fear they will be prosecuted for their drug use, they do not seek critical prenatal care, isolating them in their drug use rather than helping them have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. Leading public health groups – including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Nurses Association – have opposed punishing pregnant women for their behavior because it can deter women from seeking the prenatal care they need to have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. Further, it is generally bad public policy to infringe on a person’s privacy. If this were upheld, what would stop the state from arresting pregnant women for drinking alcohol or coffee, or smoking cigarettes? Where will we draw the line?”


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Anonymous Location: Florida on Sep 16, 2011 at 07:39 AM
    The mother did not ask for help from anyone. Her ENTIRE family was unaware of her drug use for the entire time she was pregnant, and even before that. She didn't even speak out about her drug use until it was almost already too late for the baby to be weened off of drugs. Do not stick up for her because it was her fault she was in this situation and if she would have reached out to her family for help I'm sure they would not have had a problem in helping her. Your actions are your responsibility, nobody else and if you cant except the consequences of them, then don't do it.
  • by Anonymous Location: florida on Sep 7, 2011 at 10:26 AM
    what the outrage here is the mother asked for help. From several different facilities and was turned away. The real deal is the mother and child were drug tested upon birth and both were negative for oxycodone. The charges were padded to make the system appear to be working. If one person would have took the time to help this mother then you wouldnt be reading this b.s. article. So I blame the system. Suwannee County looks at this as a triumph because they succeeding in charging this young mother but really it was a failure. This mother tried to recieve help and gave birth to the child at anytime she could of chosen to abort then there would be another precious angel lost. I say give her a chance. We live in a world of addictions. Everyone is addiction to one thing or another its easily to become addicted to something a Dr. gives you for a condition. The only thing that happend from this is two little girls have to live their lives without their mother. When the State should of tried to keep the family intact. So all y'all who think you can judge....Judge not lest you be judge.
  • by John Location: Suwannee County on Mar 3, 2011 at 10:13 PM
    You folks post stuff like how can this go on and how can this happen. But you are missing WHERE it happened. In Suwannee County, a small prejudice town in Northern Florida where everybody knows everybody and everybody knows nothing at all. Its a creepy place and you can take it from me since I live here. Its the same place a man stayed dead on his porch for 3 days before the sheriff even noticed. So please do not be surprised if you hear more stories where you are like htf did that go on for so long before someone noticed. Im sure people from Suwannee will want to find out who I am too so they can tell me to hush. Everything that happens in Suwannee is suppose to be a secret. This is why we need more FBI to look into smaller town police records for cover ups. That stuff happens here more then I would like to admit. I am not saying the police here are bad, but there are bad police, just check out youtube and use keywords: "officer arrested by FBI" if you want to know the sad truth.
  • by Tonya Location: Spring Hill on Mar 12, 2010 at 01:40 PM
    I know this woman personally. This whole situation has been blown out of context. The facts are simple, she was addicted. She did her best to minimize the damage to her child during the pregnancy. She then volunteered the information to the hospital. She in turn gave her children over to their father. Knowing that was the best thing for them right now. Yes, she messed up there was a problem for a while, but she did her best. She faught for her kids safety and knew where that would be. I believe Mother of 3 has a point. Who is anyone to judge who is important? I know these stories have hurt the whole family, is that the purpose here? To damage the intire family? To hurt the girls that are suppose to be protected? I believe that instead of reporting this article over and over again. There should be rehabs and programs offered to this woman. People should be trying to help the family not hurt them.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 11, 2010 at 06:56 PM
    Wow. For one everyone has the right to their opinion. Facts are something that is far and few here. If everyone knew the facts to this situation there would not be any negative comments. She tried to get help and was turned down, door after door was slammed in her face. So then whos fault is it? A mother that was trying to get help because she was aware of the problem. Or the people that did not help? or are we all responsible for seeing it and walking away? Although you still sit her and judge this mother. How dare you!
  • by Mother of 3 on Mar 11, 2010 at 06:48 PM
    How can an alleged addict go to her scheduled md appointments, everyone month, then weekly and not be helped? How can any woman go for nine months being addicted to drugs, seeing the staff at her doctors and her doctor and not be provided with information? We are stoning a woman for haven given birth to this child? Why is that? I see these cases all the time in my line of work. For Suwannee's 1'st yes there will be mistakes but at the price of what? A woman? 2 beautiful girls? The intire family? Where does it end? If only when she walked in to her first check up, the doctor would have HELPED her this would not even be an article. There would be no suffering from any one in this family..Way to go Suwannee, Way to go Lt. Musgrove he says the child is important. I think everyone is..who is he to deside who is important or not?
  • by Anonymous Location: branford on Mar 11, 2010 at 04:42 PM
    i just gotta say, that at least she didnt abort that beautiful baby girl, that ya she was doing drugs, but she did give the baby a chance to live. she made a very bad choice, but how many prople have done this before her and never got into trouble??? im not saying that what she did was right but at least the baby is alive and breathing and doing great now. at least she didnt abort the baby, she gave it a chance to live and she is living to the fullest now and growing strong.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 11, 2010 at 04:35 PM
    why is it that you can abort your baby all day long and throw it in a dumpster and never be charged but give the baby a chance and get charged with felony charges?
  • by Anonymous Location: Florida on Mar 11, 2010 at 06:45 AM
    No pregnant mother should ever take drugs while a baby is in the womb. If they do, then the baby should be taken from them and given to a family that have good morals and values and will take care of them properly. As for you Shaunequa, I hope your comment was sarcasm, but if not, you are one messed up mother. I agree with Outraged at what she said. I also cannot believe that society lets people who think like you (Shaunequa) exist, let alone even have kids. Stop multiplying and get fixed immediately please.
  • by Ourtraged Location: Florida on Mar 11, 2010 at 05:54 AM
    Shaunequa: I really hope that your comment was made with sarcasm. Yes it hurts when you are pregnant and the baby kicks. It only hurts for a few seconds. That does not give you any right to "smoke drugs to make it hurt less". I cannot believe that society lets people who think like this exist.
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