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Law and MedicineCurrent Legal Issues Volume 3$
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Michael Freeman and Andrew Lewis

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198299189

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198299189.001.0001

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Policing Pregnancy: Rights and Wrongs

Policing Pregnancy: Rights and Wrongs

(p.283) Policing Pregnancy: Rights and Wrongs
Law and Medicine

Meredith Blake

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores and evaluates the idea that a pregnant woman should be the subject of legal regulation in order to protect the welfare of her unborn child. The concept of ‘maternal–foetal conflict’ has to date dominated legal discussion of maternal conduct which poses risks to the unborn child. This concept however can be unhelpful and damaging, and is ultimately unable to reflect the subtle ethical issues raised by pregnancy and the role of the medical profession in monitoring and intervening in pregnancy and childbirth. The main focus of this discussion is the impact that the Human Rights Act 1998 may have on the current legal approach to situations in which the present and future welfare of the foetus is endangered as a result of the conduct of the pregnant woman. It is suggested that human rights jurisprudence may be better able to reflect the complexity of decision-making in pregnancy, and turn the spotlight away from the notion of conflict.

Keywords:   pregnant women, child welfare, unborn child, Human Rights Act 1998, foetus

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