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Abstract

Here, I argue that we can and should approach the issue of pregnant women whose behavior may harm their fetuses, not from the vantage point of fetal harm, but rather from the vantage point of pregnant women’s social location. That location often includes poverty, violence, need, and despair. Placing blame and exacting retribution on an individual woman, absent an understanding of the social context, makes the provision of justice in these cases difficult if not impossible. Moreover, attempts to enhance fetal health by assigning criminal liability in such cases are destined to fail in light of the significant contribution that negative social and economic conditions have on fetal health, and over which pregnant women have little or no control.

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