From Schroedel (Policy and Politics/Claremont Graduate School), a thoughtful legal and philosophical examination of the problem of fetal personhood, with implications for public policy and criminal law.
The issue of whether the human fetus should be treated as a person is significant not only for abortion policy, but also for the law governing substance abuse by pregnant women. After presenting a historical analysis of Christian and Anglo-American ideas of fetal personhood, Schroedel attacks this problem by comprehensively examining post–Roe v. Wade abortion law in all 50 states and contrasting the arguments developed in the abortion debate (by pro-choice groups that deny fetal personhood in opposition to pro-life groups that assert it) with laws on the issues of prenatal substance abuse and third-party fetal killings. Finding inconsistencies in most states in fetal personhood policy, the author concludes that states with strong anti-abortion policies tend to be more interested in protecting fetuses from substance abuse by the mother than from third-party acts of violence. Broadly, Schroedel concludes that states with pro-life abortion laws “are consistent in according lower political, social, and economic status to women” and “less likely than pro-choice states to provide adequate care to poor and needy children.” Acknowledging that differences in moral perspective are sincere, and observing that inconsistencies in fetal personhood policy are not necessarily hypocritical, the author calls for greater consistency in fetal personhood policy and for laws that consistently protect the rights of vulnerable women and children.
A well-researched and well-reasoned contribution to our continuing and contentious national conversation on fetal personhood and abortion laws.