Conceiving Fetal Abuse

Document Type


Publication Date



Fetal Abuse, Canada, Social Trends, Policy Recommendations, Winnipeg Child and Family Services (Northwest Division) v. D.V.G


This essay weaves together Canadian legislation, jurisprudence, and social trends which have emerged around the issue of 'fetal abuse'. I first review how fetal abuse has been framed within public discourse, and the reflection of this discourse in recent case law. My analysis of these conceptualizations of fetal abuse considers both the factors which have been deemed relevant for understanding the issue, as well as factors which I argue ought to be incorporated (eg. statistically significant co-relations between pregnant women being subjected to battering and subsequent substance abuse).

The second part of the paper examines policy recommendations regarding fetal abuse which were put forward by two Federally supported groups in 1989 and 1993. They are, respectively, the Canada Law Reform Commission and the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies.

In the final part of the paper, I apply my observations and analyses from the first two parts of the paper to the recent Supreme Court finding of Winnipeg Child and Family Services (Northwest Division) v. D.V.G.. I discuss how this case perpetuates current trends in case law practices, and how it meshes with previous policy recommendations. I also ask whether it offers any sort of viable alternatives.