In a major first in America’s never-ending war over abortion, an Alabama judge has recognised the legal rights of an aborted foetus. This gives a man whose girlfriend had a chemical abortion at six weeks in 2017 the right to sue the manufacturer of the pill she used and the abortion clinic.
The decree explicitly states that “Baby Roe” is a person and allows the plaintiff, Ryan Magers, to name the foetus as a co-plaintiff in the suit for “wrongful death”. “It’s the first time in the country that an aborted foetus has been recognised as having legal rights,” his lawyer said.
Abortion-rights groups said that the decision sets a dangerous precedent and undermines women’s right to abortion.
What makes this possible is an amendment to the Alabama Constitution which was approved by 59% of voters in last November’s election. The amendment made it state policy to "recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life".
A spokesperson for Personhood Alabama, an anti-abortion group that has been assisting in the suit, declared that Baby Roe “was cruelly robbed of life and silenced before entering the world or being able to personally voice complaint in court”.
Randall Marshall, of the American Civil Liberties Union in Alabama, called the judge’s decision “disturbing,” but predicted that Magers’s lawsuit would ultimately fail.
Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University, said that such cases are “chipping away at the framework that allows abortion, by trying to protect foetal life and drawing a moral equivalency between a foetus and newborn”.
However, he pointed out, “biological development matters in terms of how we treat an embryo or a foetus legally and morally,” and many Americans who support reproductive rights feel queasy about third-trimester abortions.
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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