Legal pragmatism and the pre-birth continuum: an absence of unifying principle.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of law and medicine, 2007, 15 (2), pp. 272 - 295
Issue Date:
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The common law has historically been clear - the rights of the unborn do not exist prior to birth. A child becomes a legal person and able to enforce legal rights upon being born alive and having a separate existence from her or his mother. This article assesses whether new developments in biomedical technologies have left this legal principle inviolate and explores what the state of law is in relation to pre-birth. It argues that there is a pre-birth continuum where the law punctuates points in a lineal timeline fashion as to when a pre-birth "non-entity" becomes a legal entity. The article concludes that there is no singular rule of law with respect to being or becoming a human but rather a collection of discrete and increasingly divergent legal categories. This recognition of a pre-birth continuum or timeline as to the legal recognition of this "non-entity" has significant ramifications for the future development of law and impacts on legal thinking about what it means to be human.
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