A newly conservative-leaning Supreme Court means that abortion rights in the United States are facing an uncertain future. The past year has seen several attempts to limit access to safe and legal abortions, and now, in the first decision of its kind, an Alabama court has determined that a man can sue an abortion clinic on behalf of an aborted fetus.
According to local ABC affiliate WAAY 31, a man named Ryan Magers is suing the Alabama Women’s Center in Madison County, Alabama, after his girlfriend had an abortion in 2017—nearly two years ago. He filed the lawsuit on February 6th on behalf of the fetus, which was aborted at six weeks and is designated “Baby Roe” in the suit. The lawsuit, obtained by local NBC affiliate WTVA, also states that Magers “repeatedly pleaded with the Mother not to kill Baby Roe” and alleges that the clinic is responsible for the fetus’s “wrongful death.”
In response to the suit, WAAY 31 reports that the Madison County court ruled that Baby Roe was a person with full legal rights, enabling Magers to sue as the representative of the fetus’s estate.
Although this ruling is the first time an aborted fetus has been granted legal rights, it might not be the last. In November, Alabama passed an amendment that declared it state policy to defend “the rights of unborn children” and protect “the sanctity of unborn life.” The Madison County case is evidence of how this new law could affect reproductive rights—even in cases where abortions occur early in the first trimester.
Luckily, there are definitely solid legal reasons why this case won’t hold up in court. In an email to The Cut, Lucinda Finley, a law professor at the University of Buffalo who specializes in reproductive rights, noted that there’s a major legal flaw within the logic of the suit. Namely, the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruled that women do not need the consent of their male partners before seeking an abortion. That, she argues, is the legal precedent here.
Regardless, this case could have scary implications for the right to choose, and we’ll definitely be tracking it as it progresses. At the end of the day, women need the right to determine what is right for themselves and their bodies, and medical professionals must be able to provide these service—without fearing punishment by law.