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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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Publication Date

Spring 1989




Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center




The bodies of pregnant women are the battleground on which the campaign to define the right of privacy is fought. The ultimate outcome will likely be shaped at least as much by new medical technologies as by politics or moral persuasion. This is because medical technologies do much more than change what we can do: they can radically alter the way we think about ourselves. Technologies have the power to change "not only the relation of man to nature but of man to man."1 More than that, they can alter our very concept of what it means to be human, and thus of the "rights" we properly afford this "new human."

Advances in genetics and prenatal screening, new knowledge of fetal development, fetal monitoring and safer cesarean sections, and drug-induced abortions, are all examples of changes in technology that force us to confront decisions impossible in the recent past. This brief article examines how medical advances in pregnancy and childbirth have affected the articulation of the legal rights of pregnant women in the past, and explores how changes in technology could affect the legal rights of pregnant women in the future.

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