Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Wendy E. Roop


Rapid advances in genetic technology in recent years have profoundly affected prenatal care. What once seemed like science fiction is today a reality. Currently, physicians routinely offer prenatal testing for genetically linked diseases. In utero fetal surgery and genetic treatment is fast becoming widely available. This evolution in prenatal care has quickly outpaced corresponding legal developments, and raised difficult questions as to when prenatal genetic testing is appropriate and to what extend the state should be involved. Statutorily mandated neonatal screening and court ordered caesareans suggest a precedent upon which a woman might be compelled to undergo prenatal genetic testing.

This Note evaluates the arguments on which compelled prenatal genetic testing might be based and concludes that a woman's constitutionally guaranteed rights insulate her from such state intrusion. The Note further suggests an alternative to compelled prenatal genetic testing, based on the ideals of beneficence and autonomy.