Mater Est Quam Gestatio Demonstrat: A Cautionary Tale

21 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2006

Date Written: June 27, 2007


While the Latin phrase mater est quam gestatio demonstrat (by gestation the mother is demonstrated) is often called a common law maxim, it in fact hails from 1983. A series of mis-citations has led to its proliferation, but gestatio is not ancient law in Latin; it is instead a modern policy proposal draped in the aegis of "classical fashion." Unfortunately, courts have also fallen into the error, with varying effects on the final results. Although the inventors intended gestatio to mean that a woman who gives birth is the legal mother, commentary and case law has further distorted the phrase to include or even privilege the genetic mother in reproductive technology cases. Maternity disputes are not going to end any time soon - fixing this error is crucial if future cases are to be correctly decided. This discovery sends warnings to researchers to check their sources, but also demonstrates that laws designed to elevate uniquely female characteristics can easily be twisted to instead recognize what is also male.

Keywords: reproductive technologies, legal parentage, motherhood

Suggested Citation

Baldassi, Cindy L., Mater Est Quam Gestatio Demonstrat: A Cautionary Tale (June 27, 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Cindy L. Baldassi (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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