Three New Legal Threats to Abortion Rights

Fetal Personhood, Fetal Estate Suits, and Suits by Living Fetuses
WASHINGTON - Sept. 21, 2022 - PRLog -- With so much attention on blocking proposed legislation which would severely restrict abortions, and learning to live with such laws where they have already been enacted, it's not surprising that abortion rights advocates have largely not yet focused on three emerging legal threats to reproductive freedom and the rights of women, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has won over 100 legal actions battling discrimination against women.

For this reason, Banzhaf has authored a new analysis of these new legal threats: (1) fetal personhood laws and bills, (2) lawsuits brought on behalf of the estates of fetuses which were aborted, and (3) lawsuits purporting to be on behalf of a still-living fetus against the woman within whom he resides, and possibly against others also.

Fetal personhood laws - which regulate pregnancy and affect pregnant women much more broadly than anti-abortion laws, are "the next battleground in the fight over abortion rights in the US" according to the Washington Post, since they grant a fetus the same legal rights (including to life) as a person.  The Boston Globe warns that they could "upend the meaning of equality under the law," and deny states "the authority to allow abortions in cases of rape or incest."

Potentially even more threatening, says Banzhaf, are law suits - at least two of which have already been filed - brought on behalf of the estates of fetuses which were aborted.  For example, a doctor sued by a husband, simply for prescribing abortion pills to his wife four years earlier, had her annual medical malpractice insurance rate more than doubled from $32,000 to $67,000 as a result of the filing.

The final threats are lawsuits being brought by husbands, boyfriends, or others to protect the rights of a still living fetus to prevent it from being aborted - even in states which do not criminalize such abortions - or even to prevent pregnant women for engaging in activities which might pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the fetus.

These latter two types of legal actions present a major threat to abortion rights because, unlike fetal parenthood laws, they do not require convincing legislators to act.  Instead, they can be brought even in abortion-friendly states.

They can also be brought even if government officials such as prosecuting district attorneys refuse to take any actions; e.g., to enforce laws which criminalize most abortions, warns Banzhaf.

All of this is explained and analyzed in a report by Banzhaf published on Law&Crime entitled "How Fetal Personhood and Fetal Estate Lawsuits Threaten Abortion Rights"   @profbanzhaf

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