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Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical, neurological, behavioral, and learning defects collectively grouped under the heading Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was first defined in 1973 as a condition characterized by pre- and postnatal growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, and defects of the central nervous system. The pattern of facial defects that occur as a result of ethanol exposure during development primarily affects the midline of the face, altering morphology of the eyes, nose, and lips.
The 1986 US Supreme Court decision Bowen v. American Hospital Association rejected the federal government's use of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to intervene in a hospital's treatment for neonates born with severe congenital defects. This case set a precedent for the role of government involvement in cases where parents refused consent for care of disabled newborns.
The US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals' 1984 decision United States v. University Hospital, State University Hospital of New York at Stony Brook set a significant precedent for affirming parental privilege to make medical decisions for handicapped newborns, while limiting the ability of the federal government to intervene. The ruling stemmed from the 1983 case involving an infant born with severe physical and mental congenital defects; the infant was only identified as Baby Jane Doe.