Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of infanticide


  1. murder of an infant soon after its birth.

See also

Definition of infanticide


    From infant +‎ -cide.


  • (UK) IPA: /ɪnˈfæntɪsaɪd/ SAMPA: /in"f{ntIsaId/


infanticide (plural infanticides)

  1. The murder of an infant.
  2. The murder of a child by a parent; filicide.
  3. The murderer of a child: a person who has committed infanticide.
  4. (zoology) The killing of a young, immature animal by a mature adult of the same species.

Further reading

Infanticide or infant homicide is the killing of a human infant. Neonaticide, a killing within 24 hours of a baby's birth, is most commonly done by the mother.

In many past societies, certain forms of infanticide were considered permissible. In some countries, female infanticide is more common than the killing of male offspring, due to sex-selective infanticide.

Current Law

- England and Wales

In England and Wales, the Infanticide Act 1938 describes the offence of infanticide as one which would otherwise amount to murder (by his/her mother) if the victim was older than 12 months and the mother was not suffering from an imbalance of mind due to the effects of childbirth or lactation. Where a mother who has killed such an infant has been charged with murder rather than infanticide s.1(3) of the Act confirms that a jury has the power to find alternative verdicts of Manslaughter in English law or guilty but insane.

- United States

In 2009, Texas state representative Jessica Farrar proposed legislation that would define infanticide as a distinct and lesser crime than homicide. Under the terms of the proposed legislation, if jurors concluded that a mother's "judgment was impaired as a result of the effects of giving birth or the effects of lactation following the birth," they would be allowed to convict her of the crime of infanticide, rather than murder. The maximum penalty for infanticide would be two years in prison. Farrar's introduction of this bill prompted liberal bioethics scholar Jacob M. Appel to call her "the bravest politician in America."


Since infanticide, especially neonaticide, is often a response to an unwanted birth, preventing unwanted pregnancies through improved sex education and increased contraceptive access are advocated as ways of preventing infanticide. Increased use of contraceptives and access to safe legal abortions have greatly reduced neonaticide in many developed nations. Some say that where abortion is illegal, as in Pakistan, infanticide would decline if safer legal abortions were available.

Screening for psychiatric disorders or risk factors, and providing treatment or assistance to those at risk may help prevent infanticide. However in developed world significant proportions of neonaticides that are detected occur in young women who deny their pregnancy, and avoid outside contacts, so they may have limited contact with health care services.

In some areas baby hatches, safe places for a mother to anonymously leave an infant, are offered, in part to reduce the rate of infanticide. In other places, like the United States, safe-haven laws allow mothers to anonymously give infants to designated officials. Typically such babies are put up for adoption, or cared for in orphanages.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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