Boston Globe Recognizes Research of UofL Law Professor

Written By Rebecca Sears

Last Sunday's Boston Globe featured a lengthy article on the "modern progressive's moral conundrum" regarding fetal personhood. It was the lead story in the paper’s “Ideas” section. The author drew largely from UofL law professor Luke Milligan’s research on John Rawls and fetal personhood. Professor Milligan is quoted a handful of times in the article.

In the article Milligan explained how the wide use of the fetal ultrasound, beginning in the 1970s, has “forced us to come to terms with the similarities between fetuses and born children.” Milligan suggested in the article that there hasn’t been sufficient reflection on fetal rights within progressive circles. "It has become this conundrum, this intersection of human rights," said Milligan. "It's incumbent on modern progressives to focus on the intersections of those rights, and figure out how best to mediate those conflicting rights."

Professor Milligan explained to me that fetal personhood is a tough issue to write and talk about. He says that “many shy away from it because of the perceived implications for abortion rights--and anytime you get close to the abortion issue (particularly as a man) you invite some backlash.” Milligan clarifies that “fetal personhood is not a thinly-veiled religious claim about abortion; it's not even a conservative claim; rather it's a progressive claim about human rights—the human rights of the fetus.” He explains that “the claim is not grounded in God or tradition, but rather in a humanistic morality—the same morality that drives progressive views on civil rights, capital punishment, immigration, animal rights, and the environment.” Yet for a variety of reasons, Milligan says, “fetal personhood is the progressive issue that dare not speak its name.”       

Milligan joined the UofL faculty in 2008 after working as a criminal defense lawyer with the Williams & Connolly law firm in Washington, D.C. Milligan says that “teaching law at UofL is a terrific job. Many of my colleagues are leaders in their fields, and I get to think, write, and speak about the issues I feel are important. There’s nothing I’d rather do with my life.”