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Washington and Lee Law Review Online

Article Title

Fetal Equality

Abstract

I join Carliss Chatman’s call to fully consider the equal protection implications of the conception theory and raise an additional right to which a fetus may be entitled as a matter of equal protection: health care, which implicates state laws that provide civil and criminal exemptions to parents who choose religious healing instead of medical care for their children and minor dependents. The evidence of harm to children from religious healing is well documented. Yet, currently, approximately forty-three U.S. states and the District of Columbia have some type of exemption to protect religious healing parents in civil and criminal cases.

Religious healing is the belief that “prayer” or “spiritual means” rather than modern medicine can cure individuals. Criminal exemptions apply to prosecutions for murder and homicides, child abuse, child endangerment, child neglect, contributing to neglect or deprivation, criminal injury, cruelty, delinquency, failure to provide medical and surgical attention, failure to report suspected child neglect or abuse, manslaughter, nonsupport, and omission to provide for a child. Civil exemptions apply to claims for child abuse, child neglect, contributing to neglect, dependency proceedings, failure to provide medical care or adequate treatment, failure to report, maltreatment, negligence, nonsupport, and temporary or permanent termination proceedings.

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