The recent Baby Jessica case and others like it have renewed the nature versus nurture debate in family law. Baby Jessica's biological parents, the Schmidts, sought to obtain permanent custody of their daughter after giving her up for adoption to the DeBoer family. Their argument was one that found its basis in biology and the idea of a traditional family. On the other hand, with the assistance of Professor Scarnecchia, the DeBoers argued that it was more important forJessica's overall health to remain with her primary caretakers of two years. Courts, however, have taken a more traditional view of this complex situation. Historically, there has been great resistance to the argument that the best interests of the child should rule over a biological relationship. As a result, the Schmidts won custody of Baby Jessica. In the following speech, Professor Scarnecchia articulates the limitations of a biological approach to child custody cases. She argues for a children's rights-based decision making process in family law. Professor Scarnecchia presented this speech at The American University Journal of Gender & the Law symposium "Gender, Family and Change: Developments in the Legal Regulation of Family Life" on April 9, 1994.
Scarnecchia, Suellyn. "Who Is Jessica's Mother? Defining Motherhood through Reality." Am. U. J. Gender & L. 3 (1994): 1-13.