Elizabeth M. Armstrong Ph.D., M.P.A.

Associate Professor
Office of Population Research
Princeton University
Email: ema@princeton.edu Discipline: Sociology, Demography Expertise: Gender Issues, History of Medicine

Investigator Award
Fetal Personhood: The Raw Edge of Obstetrical Practice and Ethics
Award Year: 2003 For her Investigator Award project, Fetal Personhood: The Raw Edge of Obstetrical Practice and Ethics, Dr. Elizabeth Armstrong examines the controversial notion of the fetus as person and the implications of this concept for pregnant women and the doctors who care for them. She explores how technological advances, cultural and political influences, and legal developments have affected the maternal-fetal relationship, the obstetrician-patient relationship, the practice of obstetrics, and professional ethics. By studying the conflicts that have emerged as the fetus has assumed a more prominent role in obstetrical practice, Dr. Armstrong aims to improve our understanding of patient autonomy and professional responsibility and how they affect clinical decision-making. Her work should provide new insights into prenatal care delivery and the evolution of professional ethics.


Elizabeth M. Armstrong has research interests in public health, the history and sociology of medicine, social determinants of health, and medical ethics. She is the author of Conceiving Risk, Bearing Responsibility: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the Diagnosis of Moral Disorder (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003) and articles on family planning, medical mistakes, adolescent motherhood, and the sociology of pregnancy and birth. Her current research includes a longitudinal study of agenda setting around disease in the U.S. and a study of fetal personhood and obstetrical ethics. She holds a joint appointment in the department of sociology and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and is a faculty associate at both the Office of Population Research and the Center for Health and Wellbeing there. She was a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan from 1998-2000. She has a M.P.A. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.