I just stumbled on a very interesting post by Sharon Howard at Early Modern Notes, which discusses Virginia's proposed "fetal death" law in light of a 17th-century act of Parliament intended to prevent "the destroying and murthering of bastard children." (She also delivers a friendly but well-deserved slap on the wrist to Pharyngula over their incessant use of "medieval" as a blanket pejorative, which happens to be a pet peeve of mine, too!).
Here's a particularly thought-provoking excerpt:
[T]he statute enacted that any woman who secretly gave birth to an illegitimate child and killed it, or procured its death, or attempted to conceal its death, 'whether it were born alive or not' (my emphasis), should 'suffer death as in case of murther'. That is: the Act did not, quite, presume murder in such cases; it simply made the concealment of a death in itself a capital crime.Read the entire post, by all means. Ms. Howard is an expert on crime and women's issues in the early modern era, and her analysis is fascinating.