Article Title

Politics and Privacy: Refining the Ethical and Legal Issues in Fetal Tissue Transplantation

Publication Title

Washington University Law Quarterly


It should come as little surprise that the ethical and legal treatment afforded fetal tissue transplantation will be influenced by the abortion debate. However, when the extent and dimensions of that synergy are analyzed, it is difficult not to conclude that we are faced with a purposeful confusion of the issues destined to pre-empt any meaningful discussion of fetal tissue transplantation. The issues identified are not so much ethical concerns, but instead reflect settled positions taken for strategic reasons. What could have been identified as discrete legal problems turn out to be recycled arguments as to privacy and reproductive autonomy. Herein lies a considerable irony. For those opposed to either abortion or fetal tissue transplantation, the effective strategy is to press the link between the two issues. For the proponent of tissue transplantation the political strategy is to maintain the issues as separate. However, when the proponent rallies her legal arguments she must confront, indeed utilize, abortion-related principles. And, if our policy-makers and judges have in fact become locked into positions on this issue by their stance on the abortion debate, it may well be that the fetal tissue debate is over before it has begun.