An Alabama lawyer will represent an aborted fetus in court, in a case the lawyer says is the first of its kind in the United States.
Last month, Ryan Magers sued the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives, an abortion clinic in Madison County, for providing his girlfriend with an abortion two years ago. Magers asked his girlfriend repeatedly to not get an abortion, but she went through with the procedure when the fetus was six weeks old, according to court documents.
Magers petitioned Madison County’s probate court to allow him to represent the estate of “Baby Roe.” On Tuesday, Probate Judge Frank Barger granted that petition — giving Magers the ability to sue on the fetus’ behalf.
It’s the first time in the country that an aborted fetus has been recognized as having legal rights, Magers’ attorney, Brent Helms, told Alabama local news outlet WHNT 19.
"This is the first estate that I'm aware of that has ever been opened for an aborted baby," Helms added to local ABC affiliate WAAY. He dubbed the petition “a victory.”
Abortion rights advocates, unsurprisingly, had a different take. Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, tweeted, “Very scary case.”
Activists are particularly troubled by the fact that this lawsuit is one of the first to take advantage of a measure passed during the November midterm elections, when Alabama amended its constitution to recognize “the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.” That amendment, which was supported by almost 60 percent of voters, made deep-red Alabama the first state in the country to add what opponents called a “fetal personhood clause” to its constitution.
At the time, the Guttmacher Institute’s Senior State Issues Manager Elizabeth Nash warned that the clause could have far-reaching consequences.
“There are concerns that that language would apply more broadly to something other than abortion,” she told VICE News, adding, “like perhaps actions by a pregnant person or miscarriage, or like somehow that could be applied to criminalize pregnancy in some way.”
This is not, however, the first time a fetus has been allowed to have an attorney in Alabama court. In 2014, Alabama legislators passed a law to let lawyers represent fetuses in cases where minors wanted abortions; no other state had ever implemented such a law.
A federal judge struck it down in August 2017.
Cover: In this photo taken Feb. 22, 2016, Aaron Snipes, 15, of Tuscaloosa, holds up protest signs near the West Alabama Women’s Center, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)