Fetal homicide laws criminalize killing a fetus largely to the same extent as killing any other human being. Historically, the common law did not generally recognize feticide as a crime, but this was because of the evidentiary "born-alive" rule, not because of the substantive understanding of the term "human being." As medicine and science have advanced, states have become increasingly willing to abandon this evidentiary rule and to criminalize feticide as homicide. Although most states have recognized the crime of fetal homicide, fourteen have not. This is largely the result of two independent obstacles: (judicial) adherence to the born-alive rule and (legislative) concern that fetal homicide laws could erode constitutionally protected reproductive rights. This Note explores a variety of fetal homicide laws that states have adopted, demonstrating that popular opinion has shifted toward recognizing this crime. It then directly confronts the objections that have prevented other states from adopting such laws: it first reviews the literature suggesting that the born-alive rule should be abandoned, as it is an obsolete evidentiary standard; it then argues that constitutionally protected reproductive liberties can be reconciled with, and in fact augmented by, punishing the killing of a fetus as a homicide.
Douglas S. Curran,
Abandonment and Reconciliation: Addressing Political and Common Law Objections to Fetal Homicide Laws,
58 Duke Law Journal
Available at: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/dlj/vol58/iss6/6