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Abstract

During the past fifteen years, the term fetal abuse has been applied to physical and developmental harms caused by prenatal drug exposure, but not to other preventable threats to fetal well-being. Although Roe v. Wade established the legal rationale for fetal abuse prosecutions, which held that a state may have a compelling interest in intervening in a woman's pregnancy after the fetus reaches viability, states did not initially use Roe to prosecute pregnant women whose substance abuse threatened fetal wellbeing. The situation began to change in the mid-1980s, when media attention on the problems of "crack babies combined with technological advances in in utero fetal health monitoring to create a public outcry against pregnant substance abusers.

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