Late Termination of Pregnancy in Cases of Severe Abnormalities in the Fetus
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 1998; 17(1): 83-92
Developments in medical technology have increased the possibility of diagnosing severe structural abnormalities in the fetus. In such circumstances, the woman may request termination of her pregnancy. This raises serious ethical and legal questions, in particular if the abnormalities are discovered after 24 weeks of gestation, when the fetus is considered viable. This article discusses the legal aspects of this problem, with particular reference to the Netherlands. If one accepts that, in exceptional circumstances, third trimester abortion may be justified on medical grounds, the law should make provision for it. However, the general protection provided by the law to fetal life-especially in the third trimester -- should remain firmly in place.
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