Fetal rights

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Fetal rights are moral or legal rights of human fetuses. Laws and topics related to fetal rights include abortion and assault.

Fetal protection in law[edit]

Some laws seek to protect or otherwise recognize the fetus. Some of these grant recognition under specific conditions: the fetus can legally be a victim of a crime such as feticide, a beneficiary of insurance or social assistance, or an inheritor of property.

  • Iranian law holds that anyone who brings about a miscarriage must pay a monetary fine, which varies depending upon the stage of development and/or sex of the fetus, in compensation.[3]
  • The Hungarian constitution enacted in 2011 states that the human life will be protected from the moment of conception.

Right-to-life and legal personhood[edit]

Legislative measures sometimes seek to establish a right to life of the fetus from the moment of fertilization. These laws protect the fetus as another member of society.

  • In 1983, the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, also known as the "Pro-Life Amendment", was added to the Constitution of the Ireland by popular referendum. The new Article 40.3.3° read "The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."

Other governments have laws in place that state that fetuses are not legally recognized persons:

  • In Canadian law, under section 223 of the Criminal Code of Canada, a fetus is a "human being ... when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother whether or not it has completely breathed, it has an independent circulation or the navel string is severed."[4]

Much opposition to legal abortion in the West is based on a concern for fetal rights. Similarly many pro-choice groups oppose fetal rights, even when they do not impinge directly on the abortion issue, because they perceive this as a slippery slope strategy to restricting abortions.[5]

Most recently, as of November 5th, 2014 two personhood amendments have been struck down in North Dakota and Colorado. "In Colorado, Amendment 67—which sought to update the state’s criminal code to define fetuses as children—failed by a large 64 percent to 36 percent margin. It marks the third time that Colorado voters have rejected personhood. Reproductive rights advocates are celebrating the defeat of both measures as an important victory against personhood."[6]

Behavioral intervention[edit]

Various initiatives, prompted by concern for the ill effects which might be posed to the health or development of a fetus, seek to restrict or discourage women from engaging in certain behaviors while pregnant. Also, in some countries, laws have been passed to restrict the practice of abortion based upon the gender of the fetus.

Example cases[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Congress of the United States of America. (March 25, 2004). Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004. H.R.1997. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  2. ^ "The Bush Administration's Plan for Fetal Care." (February 07, 2002). On Point. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  3. ^ Abortion Laws of the World. Annual Review of Population Law. Retrieved July 14, 2006. Archived August 27, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/page-105.html#h-77
  5. ^ Farmer, Rebecca. National Organization for Women. (2001). "Fetal Rights" Initiatives Concern Abortion Rights Supporters. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  6. ^ http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/11/05/3589112/voters-reject-personhood/
  7. ^ Rosenburg, J. (2004). Low Birth Weight Is Linked to Timing of Prenatal Care and Other Maternal Factors. International Family Planning Perspectives, 30 (2). Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  8. ^ "Legislators Want To Ban Pregnant Women From Smoking." (June 14, 2006). The Hometown Channel. Retrieved July 31, 2006. Archived April 11, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b c d e Center for Reproductive Rights. (September 2000). Punishing Women for Their Behavior During Pregnancy: An Approach That Undermines Women’s Health and Children’s Interests. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  10. ^ Jyotsna Singh, India probes baby body parts find, BBS News, July 23, 2007. Retrieved August 15, 2008.
  11. ^ American Civil Liberties Union. (September 30, 1997). Coercive and Punitive Governmental Responses to Women's Conduct During Pregnancy. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  12. ^ Costello, Robert G. (2001). Fetal Endangerment: A Challenge For Criminal Law. Boalt Journal of Criminal Law, 4. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  13. ^ Lewin, Tamar. (October 30, 1997). "Abuse Laws Cover Fetus, a High Court Rules." The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2006. Archived May 13, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Whitner v. State[dead link], 328 S.C. 1, 492 S.E.2d 777 (1997).
  15. ^ Robinson, B.A. Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance. (November 14, 1997). Balancing the Rights of the Woman and Her Fetus. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  16. ^ BC Pro-Choice Action Network. Pro-Choice Press, "Drummond Update", Spring 1997. (Retrieved 6 March 2008).
  17. ^ Régis Bouchard. Le Droit, "Brenda Drummond pourra refaire sa vie", 7 February 1997.
  18. ^ "Mother charged in Caesarean row." (March 12, 2004). BBC News. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  19. ^ Sage, Alexandria. (April 29, 2004). "Utah C-Section Mom Gets Probation." CBS News. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  20. ^ Canedy, Dana. (May 15, 2003). "Gov. Jeb Bush to Seek Guardian for Fetus of Rape Victim." The New York Times. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  21. ^ "Disabled Rape Victim Gives Birth." (September 1, 2003). CBS News. Retrieved July 31, 2006.


  1. ^ http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/11/05/3589112/voters-reject-personhood/