Hastings Journal on Gender and the Law


Susan Ayres


Society is horrified and shocked when mothers kill their children. While this reaction may be justified, the reasons behind infanticide are never fully explored. Motherhood has very specific definitions in our society which makes it difficult to understand the motivations behind infanticide. Social institutions, such as the legal system and the media, are responsible for constructing motherhood in such a way that we view mothers who kill their children as simply insane and deficient. This article asserts another possible viewpoint regarding infanticide. Instead of specularizing women, the author urges people to view mothers who kill their children within the context of "other love." Other love allows a spectrum of definitions for motherhood, which facilitates a better understanding of these actions. The author illustrates this point through both fictional and factual accounts of mothers who kill their children.