It’s been two-and-a-half months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade—sending the issue of abortion back to the states, as Republicans claimed was their end goal—and the anti-abortion activists are, of course, now trying to push it further. Catholics for Life, along with two pregnant people on behalf of their fetuses, formally asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to consider the legality of fetal personhood.
The filing comes out of a Rhode Island Supreme Court case in which the state’s highest court held that fetuses are not people and therefore are not entitled to constitutional protections. (The law originally being challenged was the state’s Reproductive Privacy Act, which codified Roe v. Wade into state law.) Because fetuses are not people, the Rhode Island Supreme Court said the original lawsuit lacked standing to be filed. In short: A fetus (known in the filing as Baby Roe) cannot file a lawsuit because it doesn’t have any rights. I’d make the obvious chicken-egg joke if I didn’t have to be so fucking serious about this shit all the time.
The filing before the Supreme Court is brought by Rhode Island residents Nichole Leigh Rowley on behalf of her fetus, Jane Doe on behalf of her fetus, and Catholics of Life doing business as Servants of the Christ for Life, in case you were confused about their points of view.
The petitioners have a comically simple way of looking at the law. The Fourteenth Amendment uses the phrase “any person,” but “has no textual definition....And it neither includes not excludes unborn human beings specifically.” They want the court to rule on “whether unborn human beings will categorically be denied access to the courts to challenge an abortion law,” without demanding the court wrestle with question of when life begins.
Only four justices need to say yes for a case to be argued before the Supreme Court. While Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization brought utter havoc upon our country, it did avoid questions of fetal personhood. “Petitioners’ case presents the opportunity for this Court to meet that inevitable question head on,” the filing reads.
Since the justices dropped their cataclysmic abortion decision in June and peaced out for thesummer, the country has be thrust into a world of their making. A mere five people said abortion did not have constitutional protection, so fetal personhood is the next logical step for a movement hellbent on keeping abortion illegal and inaccessible and women subjugated.
If you grant a fetus the right to bring a lawsuit, the right to constitutional protections, you can legally require a number of horrifying things. You can call a miscarriage murder or least negligent homicide. Sure, that pregnant up in Dallas could drive in the HOV lane and not get a ticket. Haha! That same person could lose control of their right to make basic decisions about their lives at the hands of the fetuses’ fathers.
While there is no way to know if the court will take the case (grant cert for the nerds reading this), it’s not impossible: Only four of the nine need to agree to put a case on the highest court’s docket. The court has shown complete contempt for pregnancy, pregnant patients, and the people who wish to never be pregnant, let alone parent. While this suit might feel unlikely, I worry it’s only the first draft.