Fetus Law and Legal Definition

A fetus is typically defined as a developing human at a certain point after conception to birth. The precise definition varies by applicable laws, some of which define a fetus to include the element of viability, so that it is able to survive independently outside the womb. Various laws have been enacted to protect fetuses and punish individuals who injure them or cause their death. For example, Texas' Prenatal Protection Act holds people who assault or harm a pregnant woman liable for crimes against the mother and unborn child. The issue has been raised as to whether the law requires doctors to report substance abuse of a pregnant mother. The federal Born-Alive Infant Protection Act of 2002 amends the legal definitions of "person," "human being," "child" and "individual" to include any fetus that survives an abortion procedure. The federal law requires doctors to attempt to keep alive a fetus that survives an abortion.

Fetal protection laws vary by state. Some states states may amend existing homicide statutes to include the fetus as a possible victim, pass statutes defining the fetus as a person or human being, so that a fetus in encompassed by other statutes applicable to all persons or human beings, enact new statutes that create the crime of injury to a fetus, fetal homicide, or "feticide", or extend wrongful death and personal injury statutes to allow civil suits against individuals who cause the death or injury of a fetus.