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March 24, 1989

Compelled Medical Treatment of Pregnant Women-Reply

Author Affiliations

Bioethics Consultation Group Berkeley, Calif

Bioethics Consultation Group Berkeley, Calif

JAMA. 1989;261(12):1730. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420120061020

In Reply.—  I have two observations about Mr Ruley's letter. First, it demonstrates that the common law of England and America does not have a content that all courts and commentators agree on. Blackstone, one commentator on the common law, believed that the killing of a quick fetus was homicide at common law. The accuracy of this claim has been disputed by other authorities.1 Modern American courts simply do not agree with Mr Ruley's view of the common law, and he has not produced a single one that does. These courts, and not Blackstone, define the current interpretation of the common law in this country. Mr Ruley obviously disagrees with these courts (as he is free to do), but he is the one in error as he attempts to ignore or downplay the significance or uniformity of the position they have adopted on this subject. I must add that