An Historical Perspective on the Law of Personality and Status with Special Regard to the Human Fetus and the Rights of Women

The law of status enabled primitive societies to deal with the rights and duties of different types of persons-including the fetus and its bearer-within the group without the need to create elaborate social mechanisms and legal enforcement to install and perpetuate order in the society. Roman law acknowledged and classified personal status as the primary subject of law. English common law held that the principal aim of society was to protect individuals in their enjoyment of absolute rights. As contract replaced status as the focus of American Constitutional law, personhood became recognized as a potential only after fetal viability.

Author(s): William J. Curran

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Volume 61, Issue 1 (pages 58–75)
Published in 1983