Drinking while pregnant ruling: 'huge' implications for women during pregnancy

Credit: ITV News

The Court of Appeal is discussing a case today which could have huge implications for pregnant women and the way they behave during pregnancy.

The issue centres around a council in the North West of England which is seeking criminal injuries compensation for a seven year old girl with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, which was caused by her mother's alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It is a condition which affects around 250 children in England every year.

The Department of Health advises women to avoid alcohol during pregnancy but it is not illegal. Women's charities say that drinking while pregnant could become a criminal offence should the Court of Appeal agree that the woman in today's case did in fact commit a crime against her unborn child.

It is clearly a complicated and very specific case, but it raises quite a debate around the relationship between a mother-to-be and her foetus, and when the foetus becomes a person in their own right. The issue could expand to smoking in pregnancy, what a woman eats in pregnancy and even the tricky issue of abortion.

Credit: ITV News

In court today, John Foy QC, for the unnamed local authority, spoke of a mother administering a noxious thing as being "on all fours with manslaughter". Others would disagree.

Neil Sugarman, representing the child, made it clear to ITV News that today's case is about getting compensation to help care for the seven year old, and the mother herself won't face prosecution unless the case is taken further.

Although the case is being heard today, a ruling is expected at a later date.

It's a ruling that will be watched very closely.