Maternal–Fetal Conflict

Bonnie Steinbock

in Life Before Birth

Second edition

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780195341621
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897131 | DOI:
Maternal–Fetal Conflict

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Certain behaviors during pregnancy can harm the developing fetus in utero. In some states, if the woman’s behavior during pregnancy causes her to miscarry, have a stillbirth, or have a child with avoidable health problems, the woman may face criminal charges; she may be sent to jail. Yet the woman could have avoided criminal sanctions by availing herself of the legal option of abortion. It may seem inconsistent to allow women to choose abortion, which kills the fetus, while at the same time holding them criminally responsible for imposing a lesser harm on the child after birth. The interest view explains why there is no inconsistency. Although it denies that fetuses, at least in early gestation, have no interests and no rights, it acknowledges the interests of born children in having a healthy existence, interests that can be thwarted by maternal behavior during pregnancy. However, this chapter recognizes the moral obligations of pregnant women who do not abort their future children, it rejects a criminal justice approach to the public health problem of substance abuse in pregnancy, because this approach does nothing to protect children and nothing to help women get over their addictions.

Keywords: substance abuse in pregnancy; legal drugs; illegal drugs; pregnant addicts; compulsory cesareans

Chapter.  24110 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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