Children have constitutional rights to bodily integrity. When children are abused by state actors, courts do not hesitate to vindicate those rights. Moreover, in at least some cases, children’s bodily integrity rights protect them within the family, giving them the right to avoid unwanted physical intrusions regardless of their parents’ wishes. Nonetheless, the scope of this right of children vis-à-vis their parents unclear; the extent to which it applies beyond the narrow context of abortion and contraception has been almost entirely unexplored and untheorized. This Article is the first in the legal literature to analyze the constitutional right of minors to bodily integrity within the family by spanning traditionally disparate doctrinal categories such as abortion rights, corporal punishment, medical decision-making, and non-therapeutic physical interventions such as tattooing, piercing, and circumcision. However, the constitutional right of minors to bodily integrity raises complex philosophical questions concerning the proper relationship between family and state, as well as difficult doctrinal and conceptual issues concerning the ever-murky idea of state action. This Article canvasses those issues with the ultimate goal of delineating a constitutional right of bodily security and autonomy for children.


Children, Minors, Bodily Integrity, Constitutional Law, Family, Autonomy, Medical Decision-Making, Parents, Corporal Punishment, State Action, Bellotti v. Baird, Abortion, Contraception

Publication Date


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Place of Original Publication

Duke Law Journal

Publication Information

64 Duke Law Journal 1295 (2015)


COinS Jessie Hill Faculty Bio