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The court treated frozen embryos possessed by an in vitro fertilization clinic as property owned by the parents and held under a bailment contract by the clinic. As such, the contract between the parties controlled disposition of the embryos but when the contract ended, control of the embryos reverted back to the parents. This decision had little effect on subsequent embryo cases because the circumstances were so unusual. Neither party contended the embryos had any rights.
The implication of the court's decision was that Thomas Doolan's identity or personhood existed at the embryo stage in vitro, thus the fact that he was born with cystic fibrosis was not attributable to the decision of the in vitro fertilization providers to implant one embryo instead of another. The other unused embryo may not have carried the cystic fibrosis genes, but that other embryo was not Thomas Doolan. The decision in Doolan has not been publicly tested in other jurisdictions.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court in a case of first impression decided that a prior written agreement between a husband and wife regarding the disposition of frozen embryos in the event of a divorce was unenforceable. This was the first case to reject the presumption that written agreements to conduct in vitro fertilization practices were binding. The court would not force the husband to become a parent merely because he signed a consent form that would have awarded the frozen embryos to his wife in the event of marital separation.
In a case of first impression in the state of New York, the highest state court decided that a priori written agreement between progenitors of frozen embryos regarding the disposition of their "pre-zygotes" in the event of divorce is binding. By copying the general result arrived at by the Tennessee Supreme Court in Davis v. Davis in 1992, the New York court magnified the weight of authority in favor of upholding prior written agreements for in vitro fertilization practices.
The case of Smith v. Cote (1986) answered two important questions concerning law and childbirth: does the State of New Hampshire recognize a cause of action for what is defined as wrongful birth, and does the State recognize a cause of action for what is classified as wrongful life? In the case of Smith v. Cote, damages were permitted for wrongful birth, but not for the action of wrongful life.
In Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), the US Supreme Court held in a five-to-four decision that the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by the US Congress was constitutional. Although the Court previously ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) that a Nebraska law that prohibited partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional, Gonzales reversed this decision. Gonzales created the precedent that anyone who delivers and kills a living fetus could be subject to legal consequences, unless he or she performed the procedure to save the life of the mother.
Dissertation: Fetal Risk, Federal Response: How Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Influenced the Adoption of Alcohol Health Warning Labels
In the fifteen years between the discovery of fetal alcohol syndrome, or FAS, in 1973 and the passage of alcohol beverage warning labels in 1988, FAS transformed from a medical diagnosis between practitioner and pregnant women to a broader societal risk imbued with political and cultural meaning. In this dissertation, I examine how scientific, social, moral, and political narratives dynamically interacted to construct the risk of drinking during pregnancy and the public health response of health warning labels on alcohol.
Format: Essays and Theses
In the late nineteenth century, the Comstock Act of 1873 made the distribution of contraception illegal and classified contraception as an obscenity. Reflecting the predominant attitude towards contraception at the time, the Comstock Act was the first federal anti-obscenity law that targeted contraception. However, social acceptance of birth control changed at the turn of the twentieth century. In this thesis, I analyzed legislation, advocates, and literature pertinent to that social change to report on the events leading up to the decriminalization of contraception.
Format: Essays and Theses