Fetal Protection Laws: Moral Panic and the New Constitutional Battlefront

97 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2014 Last revised: 11 Aug 2017

See all articles by Michele Goodwin

Michele Goodwin

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: August 16, 2014


This Article shines a probing light on the escalation of women's reproduction serving as a site for state regulation, monitoring, and criminal policing. Professor Goodwin exposes the ways in which women's pregnancies serve as an expedient space for "tough on crime" criminal policing and prosecutions, including targeting women for refusing c-sections, falling down steps, and attempting suicide. She queries the constitutional legitimacy of such prosecutions and reveals the myriad ways in which women's reproduction now serves as a political battleground. As such, this contemporary battleground shows a hostility toward women's historic reproductive rights by states: ensnaring doctors as modern-day police informants of their pregnant patients; overriding medical directives of pregnant patients; criminalizing miscarriages and still births; stigmatizing poor women's reproduction; and instantiating rights in embryos and fetuses that carry greater legitimacy and protection than that of pregnant women. This article argues that the platform for recognizing women's Fourteenth Amendment rights is undermined by states' disparate treatment of women's privacy, autonomy, and equality.

Keywords: Constitutional Law, Reproduction, Privacy, Due Process, Abortion, Race, Society, Punishment, Privilege, Fiduciary Duty

JEL Classification: I00, I1, I10, I12, I18, I3, I31, J7, J71, J78, K14, K32, K42

Suggested Citation

Goodwin, Michele, Fetal Protection Laws: Moral Panic and the New Constitutional Battlefront (August 16, 2014). California Law Review, Vol. 102, No. 4, August 2014, UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2014-48, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2497138

Michele Goodwin (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

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