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Dissertation: A Fetus By Any Other Name: How Words Shaped the Fetal Personhood Movement in US Courts and Society (1884-1973)

The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was a significant event in the story of fetal personhood—the story of whether embryos and fetuses are legal persons. Roe legalized abortion care in the United States (US). However, the story of fetal personhood began long before the 1970s. People have been talking about embryos, fetuses, and their status in science, the law, and society for centuries.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Reproduction, Ethics, Legal

Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Protection Act (1921)

In November 1921, US Congress passed the National Maternity and Infancy Protection Act, also called the Sheppard-Towner Act. The Act provided federal funds to states to establish programs to educate people about prenatal health and infant welfare. Advocates argued that it would curb the high infant mortality rate in the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Outreach

Jeter v. Mayo Clinic Arizona [Brief] (2005)

In Arizona, statutes that protect persons, such as the wrongful death statute, will not be interpreted by the courts to grant personhood status to frozen embryos. The legislature may grant such protection in the statute if it chooses to do so by explicitly defining the word person to include frozen embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Bonbrest v. Kotz [Brief] (1946)

This influential opinion was copied throughout the United States allowing civil actions and wrongful death claims on behalf of children who suffered injuries while a viable fetus. The case essentially overruled the opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Dietrich v. Inhabitants of Northampton (1884). However, the ability to sue was usually limited in two ways: the fetus had to be viable, and a child had to be born alive to have a claim. These two restrictions have recently been removed in many jurisdictions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Commonwealth v. Luceba Parker [Brief] (1845)

The Court settled the question left open from the case of Commonwealth v. Bangs that it must be proved a woman was "quick with child" in order for abortion prohibitions to have any effect in Massachusetts.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Summerfield v. Superior Court [Brief] (1985)

Arizona joined the majority of states that recognized wrongful death claims on behalf of a viable fetus, regardless of whether the child was born alive or died in the womb by expanding the definition of "person" to include a viable fetus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Dietrich v. Inhabitants of Northampton [Brief] (1884)

This influential opinion by famed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was copied by courts throughout the United States. For over sixty years, courts refused to recognize a cause of action on behalf of a child who died before or after birth as a result of injuries suffered in the womb because the fetus was considered legally a part of its mother and thus did not possess personhood. This policy changed after the decision in Bonbrest v. Kotz in 1946.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Smith v. Cote (1986)

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Disorders

Davis v. Davis (1992)

In Davis v. Davis (1992), the Supreme Court of Tennessee decided a dispute over cryopreserved preembryos in favor of Junior Lewis Davis, who sought to have the preembryos destroyed over the objections of his former wife, Mary Sue Davis. The decision in Davis, although not binding in other states, suggested a framework for resolving similar disputes in the US. That framework established that courts should follow the wishes of those who contribute their sperm and egg cells, or gamete providers, to create preembryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

45 CFR 46: Protection of Human Subjects under United States Law (1974)

In the United States, the Code of Federal Regulations Title 45: Public Welfare, part 46 (45 CFR 46) provides protection for human subjects in research carried out or supported by most federal departments and agencies. 45 CFR 46 created a common federal policy for the protection of such human subjects that was accepted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and issued by each of the departments and agencies listed in the document.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Ferguson v. City of Charleston (2001)

The US Supreme Court case Ferguson v. City of Charleston (2001) established that public hospitals couldn't legally drug test pregnant women without their consent when those women sought prenatal care at those hospitals. The court held that such searches violated the pregnant women's protections under the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. The decisions also indicated those circumstances that qualified as special needs exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, and it highlighted the extent to which pregnant women are sovereign individuals in the eyes of the Court. Ferguson v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989)

In the 1989 case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, the
US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a Missouri law regulating abortion care. The
Missouri law prohibited the use of public facilities, employees, or
funds to provide abortion counseling or services. The law also placed restrictions on physicians who provided
abortions. A group of physicians affected by the law challenged the
constitutionality of certain sections of it. The US federal district
court that first heard the case ruled many of the challenged sections of

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology (1984), by Mary Warnock and the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology

The Report of the Committee of Inquiry
into Human Fertilisation and Embryology, commonly called the Warnock
Report after the chair of the committee Mary Warnock, is the 1984
publication of a UK governmental inquiry into the social impacts of
infertility treatment and embryological research. The birth of Louise
Brown in 1978 in Oldham, UK, sparked debate about reproductive and
embryological technologies. Brown was conceived through in vitro
fertilization (IVF), a process of fertilization that occurs outside of

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Legal, Ethics

The Baby Doe Rules (1984)

The Baby Doe Rules represent the first attempt by the US government to directly intervene in treatment options for neonates born with congenital defects. The name of the rule comes from the controversial 1982 case of a Bloomington, Indiana infant Baby Doe, a name coined by the media. The Baby Doe Rules mandate that, as a requirement for federal funding, hospitals and physicians must provide maximal care to any impaired infant, unless select exceptions are met. If a physician or parent chooses to withhold full treatment when the exceptions are not met, they are liable for medical neglect.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Weber v. Stony Brook Hospital (1983)

The New York Court of Appeals' 1983 case Weber v. Stony Brook set an important precedent upholding the right of parents to make medical decisions for newborns born with severe congenital defects. A pro-life New York attorney, Lawrence Washburn, attempted to legally intervene in the case of Baby Jane Doe, an infant born with disorders. When the infant's parents chose palliative care over intensive corrective surgery, Washburn made repeated attempts to have the New York courts force through the surgery.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

US Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program

In 1996, the US Congress mandated that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) create and regulate the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. The program tests industrial and agricultural chemicals for hormonal impacts in humans and in wildlife that may disrupt organisms' endocrine systems. The endocrine system regulates the release of small amounts of chemical substances called hormones to keep the body functioning normally.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Legal, Ethics

Whitner v. South Carolina (1997)

In the case Whitner v. South Carolina in 1997, the South Carolina State Supreme Court defined the concept of a child to include viable fetuses. This allowed grounds for prosecution of a pregnant womanÕs prenatal activity if those activities endangered or could potentially endanger the fetus within her. The case brought the issue of fetal rights versus pregnant womenÕs rights to light.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Buck v. Bell (1927)

In 1927, the US Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell set the legal precedent that states may sterilize inmates of public institutions because the court argued that imbecility, epilepsy, and feeblemindedness are hereditary, and that the inmates should be prevented from passing these defects to the next generation. On 2 May 1927, in an eight to one decision, the US Supreme Court ordered that Carrie Buck, feebleminded daughter of a feebleminded mother and herself the mother of a feebleminded child, be sterilized under the 1924 Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act. Buck v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Davis v. Davis [Brief] (1992)

This case was the first of its kind to address questions of personhood in the context of in vitro fertilization of a human embryo. It laid a foundation for future cases to work from: specifically, this case established the importance of prior written agreements for disposition of frozen embryos. This was also the first court decision to borrow the word "pre-embryo" from bioethics to describe the in vitro embryo. This terminology has been copied by many states.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Stenberg v. Carhart (2000)

In Stenberg v. Carhart, the US Supreme Court ruled on 28 June 2000 that a Nebraska law banning partial birth abortions was unconstitutional. Though the US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade in 1973 had set a precedent that constitutionally protected abortions, some states established limitations on certain types of abortion procedures. When NebraskaÕs state government criminalized partial birth abortions, physician LeRoy Carhart challenged the constitutionality of the case. Don Stenberg, an Attorney General located in Lincoln, Nebraska, represented the state of Nebraska.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Park v. Chessin (1977)

The New York Appellate Court ruled on 11 December 1977 in favor of Steven and Hetty Park and against Herbert Chessin for the wrongful life of the Parks' child. In a wrongful life case, a disabled or sometimes deceased child brings suit against a physician for failing to inform its parents of possible genetic defects, thereby causing harm to the child when born. Park v. Chessin was the first case to rule that medical personnel could be legally responsible for wrongful life. Further cases such as the 1979 case Berman v. Allan and the 1982 case Turpin v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Simat Corp v. Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (2002)

In the 2002 case Simat Corp v. Arizona Health Care Containment System, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the Arizona Health Care Containment System must pay for abortions when they are necessary to preserve the health of pregnant women in the system. In the case, the Court ruled that the Arizona Revised Statutes 35-196.02 and the Arizona Health Care Containment System (AHCCCS) policies, which banned public funds from being used for abortions, were unconstitutional. AHCCCS is Arizona's Medicaid insurance system, which enables low-income residents to receive medical care.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation (1979-1984)

In the legal case In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation of the early 1980s, US military veterans of the Vietnam War sued the US chemical companies that had produced the herbicide Agent Orange, and those companies settled with US veterans out of court. Agent Orange contains dioxin, a chemical later shown to disrupt the hormone system of the body and to cause cancer. As veterans returned to the US from Vietnam, scientists further confirmed that exposure to Agent Orange caused a variety of cancers in veterans and developmental problems in the veterans' children.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

Hodgson v. Minnesota (1990)

In the 1990 case Hodgson v. Minnesota, the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., upheld Minnesota statute 144.343, which required physicians to notify both biological parents of minors seeking abortions forty-eight hours prior to each procedure. The US Supreme Court determined that a state could legally require physicians to notify both parents of minors prior to performing abortions as long as they allowed for a judicial bypass procedure, in which courts could grant exceptions. The Supreme Court’s decision in Hodgson v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

China's One-Child Policy

In September 1979, China's Fifth National People's Congress passed a policy that encouraged one-child families. Following this decision from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), campaigns were initiated to implement the One-Child Policy nationwide. This initiative constituted the most massive governmental attempt to control human fertility and reproduction in human history. These campaigns prioritized reproductive technologies for contraception, abortion, and sterilization in gynecological and obstetric medicine, while downplaying technologies related to fertility treatment.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, Legal, Reproduction

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