Pamala Harris


This note explores the question: is it ever permissible for a physician or a judge to compel a pregnant woman to submit to medical treatment for the benefit of her fetus? This note begins by examining the ideology of motherhood and the legal status of the fetus. This note then examines the ethical aspects and legal issues involved in compelling a pregnant woman to undergo treatment for the benefit of her fetus. This note then explores the controls of pregnancy that result in maternal-fetal conflicts. Finally, this note examines the court's use of a balancing test in reaching decisions in cases of compelled medical treatment of pregnant women. I argue that neither physicians nor the judiciary should compel a pregnant woman to submit to medical treatment for the sake of her fetus. This conclusion is based on a view of the legal status of the fetus and the woman's constitutional right to privacy. The fetus is not a person under the Fourteenth Amendment, and the pregnant woman should be afforded the constitutionally protected right to privacy that would encompass the right to be free of bodily invasions." Furthermore, for public policy reasons, it is not advisable for the law to use its power to invade a person's body for the benefit of another. "To do so would defeat the sanctity of the individual and would impose a rule which would know no limits, and one could not imagine where the line would be drawn.”