Justifications of feticide

Ronit D. Leichtentritt*, Judy Leichtentritt, Michal Mahat Shamir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This qualitative research explores the justifications that Israeli women provided for their decision to end their late-stage pregnancies, or in other words to undergo feticide. A constructivist approach was used, as it recognizes the significance of sociocultural narratives in the construction of people's experiences. Data from in-depth interviews were analyzed using an adapted version of constant comparative analysis to identify and develop categories and thematic patterns. Three main themes were identified, which incorporated the various justifications women use in explaining their decision to undergo feticide: justifications related to the mother and her family; justifications related to the fetus; and justifications related to the views of medical professionals and society at large. The analysis process further revealed an overall conceptualization: wrongful life and a wrongful birth, which underlie the 3 themes. In the justification process, the women drew on a number of strategies to uphold their positions as moral caring human beings and good mothers, including denial of injury, appeal to higher loyalties, and defense of necessity. These justifications seem to have failed, as the women continued to struggle with the morality of their decision. Women's difficulties were grounded in contradicting social messages concerning feticide, as feticide is a relatively common yet socially unrecognized and undiscussed procedure in Israel. The findings highlight the interface between personal experience and social phenomena and call for an open social discourse on feticide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)704-712
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2016


  • Israel
  • Late termination of pregnancy
  • Techniques of legitimizing


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