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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
The 1981 Adolescent Family Life Act, or AFLA, is a US federal law that provides federal funding to public and nonprofit private organizations to counsel adolescents to abstain from sex until marriage. AFLA was included under the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981, which the US Congress signed into law that same year. Through the AFLA, the US Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, funded a variety of sex education programs for adolescents to address the social and economic ramifications associated with pregnancy and childbirth among unmarried adolescents.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 established the legal framework that governs infertility treatment, medical services ancillary to infertility treatment such as embryo storage, and all human embryological research performed in the UK. The law also defines a legal concept of the parent of a child conceived with assisted reproductive technologies.
The Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHR Act) is a piece of federal legislation passed by the Parliament of Canada. The Act came into force on 29 March 2004. Many sections of the Act were struck down following a 2010 Supreme Court of Canada ruling on its constitutionality. The AHR Act sets a legislative and regulatory framework for the use of reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization and related services including surrogacy and gamete donation. The Act also regulates research in Canada involving in vitro embryos.
By 2011, researchers in the US had established that non-invasive blood tests can accurately determine the gender of a human fetus as early as seven weeks after fertilization. Experts predicted that this ability may encourage the use of prenatal sex screening tests by women interested to know the gender of their fetuses. As more people begin to use non-invasive blood tests that accurately determine the sex of the fetus at 7 weeks, many ethical questions pertaining to regulation, the consequences of gender-imbalanced societies, and altered meanings of the parent-child relationship.
Hwang Woo-suk, a geneticist in South Korea, claimed in Science magazine in 2004 and 2005 that he and a team of researchers had for the first time cloned a human embryo and that they had derived eleven stem cell lines from it. Hwang was a professor at Seoul National University in Seoul, South Korea. In the Science articles, Hwang stated that all of the women who donated eggs to his laboratory were volunteers who donated their eggs (oocytes) without receiving any compensation in return. In 2006, Hwang admitted that many of the results were fabricated.
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.
On March 28, 1978, in Stump v. Sparkman, hereafter Stump, the United States Supreme Court held, in a five-to-three decision, that judges have absolute immunity from lawsuits involving any harm their judicial decisions cause. Linda Sparkman, who was unknowingly sterilized when she was fifteen years old in 1971, sued Harold Stump, the county circuit court judge who signed the petition to allow Sparkman’s mother to have her sterilized. Sparkman’s mother stated to Stump that she wanted her daughter sterilized because of Sparkman’s alleged mental deficiencies and sexual promiscuity.