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June 4, 1982

Biomedical Ethics

JAMA. 1982;247(21):2942-2944. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320460042014

In 1981 the human embryo and fetus were central figures in bioethical discussions. New diagnostic and therapeutic techniques made the human fetus seem more like a distinguishable patient, especially during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Within the legislative arena, the question of abortion was vigorously debated in hearings before the US Congress. Two distinct approaches to the abortion question emerged—one based on a proposed statute, the other based on a proposed constitutional amendment—and the issue of abortion seemed headed for a congressional showdown in 1982. At year's end the first successful birth in the United States following in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer was reported by a clinic in Norfolk, Va.

The Fetus as Patient  New techniques for prenatal diagnosis—for example, ultrasonography, amniocentesis, and fetoscopy—provide early information about the clinical status of the fetus to both prospective parents and physicians. This information then constitutes the basis for various