Document Type



Emotions abound when encountering a newborn with disabilities which will inevitably lead to an early death or to a less than whole and healthy life. It is especially painful when such disabilities were preventable. Anger swells, fingers are pointed, fault is assigned, initiatives are promised, tears are shed. To seek to assure that more humans are born with sound minds and healthy bodies seems as American as apple pie. Governmental efforts appear appropriate. For several years now, a national debate-often heated and impassioned-has focused on the legal treatment of disabilities attributable to prenatal drug or alcohol use. What, if anything, may and should governments do to limit such disabilities? What non-financial constraints, if any, operate when such a mission is undertaken? And, as our understanding of the causes and cures of such disabilities grows, what in fact have we been doing? This paper addresses these questions, dwelling particularly on coercive laws designed to protect potential human life. It will be urged first that the widespread view that Roe v. Wade' bars significant governmental protection of the unborn is misguided; that the case, in fact, suggests there are a variety of legitimate avenues for protective efforts (whether or not the unborn are deemed persons); and, that in the years since Roe, there have been many noteworthy initiatives. Recent reforms include coercive laws seeking to reduce drug or alcohol-related birth disabilities. Such laws require close scrutiny when constitutional interests are present. After generally reviewing contemporary initiatives on behalf of the unborn, efforts in Winnebago County, Illinois will be examined in detail. These inquiries will reveal some of the difficulties with state protection of potential human life. Sexually discriminatory initiatives, as well as inconsistent enforcement of state policy, will be found. Suggestions for change will then be offered, including the view that the arming of the pregnancy police should not be limited to an arsenal used only against pregnant women, but should encompass arms against all who act against the unborn.

Publication Date


Original Citation

Jeffrey A. Parness, Arming the Pregnancy Police: More Outlandish Concoctions?, 53 La. L. Rev. 427 (1992).


College of Law

Legacy Department

College of Law



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