Home Politics New Anti-Abortion Weapon; Suits By Aborted Fetuses 

New Anti-Abortion Weapon; Suits By Aborted Fetuses 

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New Anti-Abortion Weapon; Suits By Aborted Fetuses; Judge Permits Father’s Lawsuit by “Estate” of Fetus

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 25, 2022) – A new weapon in the arsenal of those who oppose abortions is a lawsuit, on behalf of the “estate” of the aborted fetus, against those who played any role in aborting it; a tactic which has been used at least twice, and was recently upheld by a judge, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

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A New Anti-Abortion Weapon

In Arizona, Mario Villegas was allowed to establish a legal estate for the fetus, dubbed "Baby Villegas," in order to sue doctors who had provided abortion pills to his then wife some four years earlier.

The Arizona action was based upon an earlier lawsuit by an Alabama man, Ryan Magers. who hadn’t wanted his ex-girlfriend to have an abortion. He persuaded a probate judge to appoint him as a representative of the estate of the aborted fetus so that he could then file a wrongful death lawsuit against those involved.

Although the Alabama lawsuit was eventually dismissed, it - like other similar ones - can cause very serious consequences for those who have been sued, including the stress and expense of being forced to defend themselves. For example, the doctor sued for prescribing abortion pills in Arizona had her annual medical malpractice insurance more than doubled from $32,000 to $67,000.

Those who support the availability of abortions should be especially concerned because all of the above occurred at a time when a woman's right to an abortion was constitutionally protected.

Now that Roe has been overruled by the Supreme Court, the opportunity for this tactic to be used as a powerful weapon against abortions - especially in jurisdictions where prosecutors may decline to bring criminal actions, so civil lawsuits may be the only effective weapon - has exploded, says Banzhaf.Others agree.

For example, law professor Lucinda Finley says such lawsuits are a“harbinger of things to come," and that she expects anti-abortion activists, together with state legislators, to use “unprecedented strategies” to slash the number of abortions.

Part Of A Larger Agenda

Another advocate for reproductive rights says the Arizona lawsuit is part of a larger agenda; “It’s a lawsuit that appears to be a trial balloon to see how far the attorney and the plaintiff can push the limits of the law, the limits of reason, the limits of science and medicine."

If even a few courts agree that an aborted fetus can have a legal estate which is represented by its biological father or some other person, this implies that fetuses, before being destroyed, have some legal rights which can be protected by judges.

These might include court orders, perhaps obtained by husbands or the biological fathers, prohibiting or at least limiting pregnant women from using illegal drugs, smoking tobacco and/or marijuana, drinking or at least drinking to excess, and even engaging in various jobs or activities which might unreasonably endanger a fetus, says Banzhaf.

Lawsuits based upon fetus-estate theory, even if eventually dismissed or otherwise unsuccessful, can nevertheless have devastating impacts on anyone involved in helping - or even simply counseling - a pregnant women to have an abortion (arguably "kill the fetus"), either a procedure performed by a surgeon or, as in the Arizona case, even one which resulted from a prescription for pills.

It is quite likely that the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision has opened the floodgates to a large number of legal actions based upon new and novel unprecedented and untested legal theories, says Banzhaf, who has been called "Legal Academia's Instigator in Chief," and an "Entrepreneur of Litigation, [and] a Trial Lawyer's Trial Lawyer."

Unless and until the law regarding fetuses, and the potential legal rights of fetuses and their estates, becomes settled - something likely to take many years, and to involve different results in various states - legal uncertainty and the risk of exposure to novel legal actions is likely to compel doctors, hospitals and other health care centers, insurance companies, private employers, and even friends and family members, to be reluctant to become involved, directly or even indirectly, with abortions, predicts the law professor.

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John F. Banzhaf

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