Reproductive Choice in Canadian Courts: An Evidence-Based Call for a Move to Relational Autonomy

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Reproductive Choice, Relational Autonomy, Judicial Beliefs, Pregnancy


In matters of reproduction, "choice" is a word laden with political and ethical connotations. The moral norm of respecting a woman's reproductive choice deserves our best defence. However, it is not often recognized that there can be a danger inherent in claiming that women have made reproductive choices — to become pregnant, to continue a pregnancy, or alternatively to terminate a pregnancy — when choices were not in fact made. In some legal cases, the outcome can turn on whether the judge believes a woman made a particular reproductive choice. If the judge believes, mistakenly, that the woman made a particular choice, then the resulting ruling can be damaging to her interests. This paper examines the role of judicial beliefs about reproductive choice and the harm that mistaken beliefs can cause. It suggests some ways to avoid these harms.