What is the current US legal status of a fetus with respect to legal rights?

Not looking for a GD just for facts. In looking at some of the GD abortion discussions it occurred to that I really don’t have a good handle on current law in this area. With this in mind I wanted to update myself as to the specifics of the current legal status of fetuses.

In this context I want to know if there is a legal precedent or existing code in the US that gives a fetus any part of the bundle of rights a citizen would have while it is still a fetus, or is the fetus currently considered a non-person/non-citizen? What is the lcurrent legal status (or non-status) of fetus in the US?


A person can be charged with two counts of murder upon killing a pregnant woman, one for the mother and one for the fetus. I wouldn’t, however, say that this grants the fetus a right so much as a recognition.

I have also heard of a few cases where the pregnant woman is charged with negligence or manslaughter after OD-ing or engaging in other behavior harmful to the fetus. While I’ve heard of charges being brought, I can’t recall hearing about any final resolutions in such cases.

There may be restrictions on abortions carried out after the first trimester, presumably in recognition of the increasing viability of the fetus to survive outside the womb. I’ve never seen any list of corresponding “rights” that accrue to the fetus as it approaches term.

I believe a fetus can be legally bequeathed an inheritence.

Don’t ask for a cite…Its just something a teacher told me in High School.

You are correct under the common law, Enola. A child not even concieved yet can be bequeathed an inheritance in a will, so long as they are at least gestating when the testator dies. If a person dies without a will, an unborn child takes that part of the person’s estate due to it as a child.

For purposes of the 14th Amendment, however, the fetus is not a “person” with rights guaranteed by the Constitution. A number of states have enacted fetal-homicide laws criminalizing the killing of an unborn child except pursuant to a medical abortion, but defense attorneys can be expected to raise constitutional challenges to these laws. A number have already done so, although I don’t believe any have yet been successful.