The disposable and protected fetus: Contradictions in fetal status

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The moral status of the fetus is one of the most contested areas of bioethics debate, and prolife and prochoice positions on abortion have polarised US politics in the modern era (Wilson, 2012). I will argue that there are two apparently contradictory views of the fetus: the ‘disposable fetus’ of prenatal testing and the ‘protected fetus’ of the personhood movements. The ‘disposable fetus’ is an entity that undergoes prenatal testing and if found defective (in some way) can be aborted. The ‘protected fetus’ has a number of forms, but in essence it positions the fetus as an entity with its own rights and interests that impose duties on others, generally, the pregnant woman. At one extreme, there is the ‘personhood movement’, with organisations like Personhood USA, and One of US in Europe, who campaign to have laws across the globe changed to recognise that personhood, and hence legal status, begins at fertilisation. While not necessarily committed to a view of the fetus having full moral status, there is also a growing focus in health and popular literature on how to ensure the welfare of your fetus in utero (Abate, 2013).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Fetus as a Patient
Subtitle of host publicationA Contested Concept and its Normative Implications
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781351692786
ISBN (Print)9781138047488
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'The disposable and protected fetus: Contradictions in fetal status'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this