Pretended pregnancy may arise from two causes : the one when a widow feigns her self with child in order to produce a sup posititious heir to the estate. The presump tive heir may in such case have a writ de ventre inspiciendo, by which the sheriff is commanded to have such made, and the fact determined whether pregnancy exists or not. by twelve matrons, in the presence of twelve knights. If the result determine the fact of pregnancy, then she is to be kept under prop er guard until she is delivered. If the preg nancy be negatived, the presumptive heir is admitted to the inheritance; 1 Bla. Com. 456; Cro. Enz. 566; 4 Bro. C. C. 90; 2 P. Wms. 591; Cox, C. C. 297. A practice quite similar prevailed in the civil law.
The second cause of pretended -pregnancy occurs when a woman is under sentence of death for the commission of a crime. At common law, in case this plea be made be fore execution, the court must direct a jury of twelve matrons, or discreet women, to ascertain the fact, and if they bring in their verdict quick with child (for barely with child, unless it be alive in the womb, is not sufficient), execution shall be stayed, gener ally till the next session of the court, and so from session to session, till either she is delivered or proves by the course of nature not to have been with 'child at all; 4 Bla. Com. 3g4; State v. Arden, 1 Bay (S. C.) 487.
In Scotland, all that is necessary to be proved, to have execution delayed, is the fact of pregnancy, no difference being made whether she be quick with child or not. This is also the provision of the French penal code upon this subject. In this country, there is little doubt that clear proof that the woman was pregnant, though not quick with child, would at common law be sufficient to obtain a respite of execution until after delivery. The difficulty lies in making the proof suffi ciently clear, the signs and indications be ing all somewhat uncertain, some of them wanting, all liable to variation, and convic tion of the fact only fastening upon the mind when a number of them, inexplicable upon any other hypothesis, concur in that one re suit.
It has been held -that pregnancy at the time of marriage by another than the hns band is sufficient ground for divorce, pro vided the pregnancy was unknown to the husband and there was no reasonable ground of suspicion by him ; Appeal of Allen, 99 Pa. 196, 44 Am. Rep. 101; Nadra v. Nadra, 79 Mich. 591, 44 N. W. 1046. It is held that proof of concealed pregnancy of the wife be fore marriage entitles the husband to a di vorce; May v. May, 71 Kan. 317, 80 Pac. 567; especially where he had had no sexual rela tions with her ; Sinclair v. Sinclair, 57 N. J, Eq. 222, 40 Atl. 679; or he may have the mar riage annulled for fraud; Fontana v. Fon tana, 77 Misc. 28, 135 N. Y. Stipp. 220 ; but not where he condones the fraud by continu ing to cohabit with the wife after discovery ; Lenoir v. Lenoir, 24 App. D. C. 160. This can hardly be laid down as an absolute rule; 1 Bish. Mar. Div. & Sep. § 483.
A husband who has been induced to mar ry a wife with whom he has had prior sex ual relations, by representations that she was with child by him, may obtain a di vorce on proof that the pregnancy was due to intercourse with another person ; Wallace v. Wallace, 137 Ia. 37, 114 N. W. 527, 14 L.
R. A. (N. S.) 544, 126 Am. St. Rep. 253, 15 Ann. Cas. 761; contra, Young v. Young (Tex.) 127 S. W. 898 ; Gondouin v. Gon douin, 14 Cal. App. 285, 111 Pac. 756.
Where adultery was in issue in a homi cide case, proof of pregnancy was admitted as tending to show the improbability of in tercourse ; Washington v. State, 46 Tex. Cr. R. 184, 79 S. W. 811.
A carrier may be liable for injury to a pregnant woman, which would not have oc curred but for her condition-; Colorado S. & I. Ry. Co. v.. Nichols, 41 Colo. 272,, 92 Pac. 691, 20 L. R. A. (N. S.) 215.
Pregnancy is seldom concealed except for the criminal purpose of destroying the life of the foetus in utero, or of the child im mediately upon its birth. Infant life is easily extinguished; while proof of the un natural crime is hard to be furnished. This has led to the passage of laws, both in Eng land and in this country, calculated to facil-, itate the proof and also to punish the very act of concealment of pregnancy and death of the child when, if born alive, it would have been illegitimate. In England, the very stringent act of 21 Jac. I. c. 27, required that any mother of such child who had en deavored to conceal its birth should prove by at least one witness that the child was actually born dead ; and for want of such proof' it arrived at the forced conclusion that the mother had murdered it. This cruel law was essentially modified in 1803, by the passage of an act declaring that women indicted for the murder of bastard children should be tried by the same rules of evidence and presumption as obtain in other of murder.
The early legislation of Pennsylvania was characterized by the same severity. The act of May 31, 1781, made the concealment of the death of a bastard child conclusive evi dence to convict the mother of murder. This was repealed by the act of April 5, 1790, s. 6, which declared that the constrained pre sumption that the child whose death is con cealed was therefore murdered by the moth er shall not be sufficient to convict the par ty indicted, without probable presumptive proof is given that the child was born alive. The law was further modified by the act of April 22, 1794, s. 18, which declares that the concealment of the death of any such child shall not be conclusive evidence to convict the party indicted for the murder of her child, unless the circumstances attending it be such as shall satisfy the mind of the jury that she did wilfully and maliciously destroy and take away the life of such a child. The act alio punishes the conceal ment of the death of a bastard child by fine and imprisonment. The act of March 31, 1860, is in force in Pennsylvania. It makes the concealment of the death of an illegitimate child an offence punishable by fine and imprisonment, and leaves the ques tion of the murder of the child by Its mother subject to the mode of trial and punishment as in ordinary cases of murder. Counts for murder and concealing the death of the child may, however, be united in the same indictment.
(In Notebene v. Malore, Year Book, 12 Rich. II, 46, it was considered that three years was the possible duration of preg nancy.) • See PHYSICAL EXAMINATION; JURY OF WOMEN; EN VENTRE SA MERE; ABORTION; GESTATION; LIABILITY.