American Journal of Bioethics.

Fetal Risks, Relative Risks, and Relatives’ Risks

Several factors related to fetal risk render it more or less acceptable in justifying constraints on the behavior of pregnant women. Risk is an unavoidable part of pregnancy and childbirth, one that women must balance against other vital personal and family interests. Two particular issues relate to the fairness of claims that pregnant women are never entitled to put their fetuses at risk: relative risks and relatives’ risks. The former have been used—often spuriously—to advance arguments against activities, such as home birth, that may incur risk; the latter implicate the nature of relationships in determining the acceptability of coercing or precluding activities. Motivated reasoning by clinicians and judges leads to inaccurate risk assessments, and judgments based on false claims to objectivity. Such judgments undermine the moral and legal standing of pregnant women and do not advance the interests of fetuses, pregnant women, families, or states.

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Volume 16, Issue 2
February 2016