Beginning of Life

Updated by Anna Endter (2014).

Most recent update for: Law H508 Beginning of Life: Rights & Choices

See also these related Gallagher guides:

Note: Some databases noted below are UW Restricted.


Legal issues in connection with beginning of life rights and choices are found in many areas of the law. Laws, regulations, and policies implicate issues such as contraception, reproduction (including issues such as surrogate parenthood, sperm and egg donation, in vitro fertilization, etc.), abortion, and genetic technologies (including issues such as cloning and stem cell research).

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are a great starting point, particularly in the area of health law. Secondary sources introduce a topic, provide an overview of the law, and offer analysis and commentary helpful to the legal researcher's understanding of an area of law. Secondary sources also provide references to relevant primary authority, including federal and state statutes, cases (court opinions), and administrative regulations.

Examples of secondary sources include books, articles, legal encyclopedias, treatises, and attorney practice materials.


Law review articles and legal periodicals are available from a number of sources. You can find starting points at the Gallagher Law Library home page under Selected Databases. When you are working off-campus, remember to login with your NetID and password before accessing the following UW Restricted databases:

  • LegalTrac: A searchable index of more than 1,500 major law reviews, legal newspapers, specialty publications, and bar association journals; some full text
  • LexisNexis Academic (non-law students): A searchable database of news, legal information (federal and state cases, statutes, codes, and regulations; Shepard's) and legal reference aids
  • LexisNexis or Westlaw (law students)
  • HeinOnline: A searchable database of legal materials available in PDF format

Scholarly articles from other disciplines:

Legal Newsletters

BNA publishes the Health Law Resource Center, a resource for news, short commentary, and legal analysis, addressing important issues affecting the health care industry. BNA is accessible to School of Law faculty, students, and staff, as well as visitors to the Gallagher Law Library using a Legal Research computer terminal.  BNA Health Law resources are also available on Bloomberg for UW Law faculty and students.

Search Tip:

  • You can find BNA on the Gallagher Law Library home page under Selected Databases. Select the Health Law Resource Center, and search by beginning of life topics using relevant keywords.
  • You can also find Bloomberg under Selected Databases.  Select Practice Centers and then Health.


Primary Legal Materials

There are many resources for locating primary law. Use the Gallagher guides on Free Law Online / Internet Legal Resources, Basic Legal Research, Statutory Research Checklist and Caselaw Research Checklist as starting points.

Law & Policy Resources


General / Bioethics

Research Guide

Organization Websites



Infertility / In Vitro Fertilization / Sperm Banks / Surrogacy

Infertility & In Vitro Fertilization

Sperm Banks



  • Related Topics (by Seattle University professor Julie Shapiro -- a wide-ranging blog about family law, starting "with questions of parentage–who are the parents of a child. It’s not as simple as it seems. But it is a terribly important one.")



Abortion / Contraception / Women's Health






Stem Cell Research





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