States Acknowledge Unborn Despite Personhood Amdt Defeat

Opinion   |   Bill Saunders & Mary Novick   |   Nov 17, 2011   |   12:43PM   |   Washington, DC

The fight for legal recognition and protection of the unborn child is not fatally diminished by the recent rejection of the Mississippi personhood initiative. In fact, there have been multiple victories for the recognition of the unborn child as a person under the law across the country this year, and there is a winning strategy in place to continue setting legal precedent for personhood.

During this legislative session, North Carolina became the 37th state to protect the unborn child under criminal homicide laws. The statute is called “Ethan’s Law,” named for the unborn son of Jennifer Neilson. Jennifer was eight and a half months pregnant with baby Ethan when she was stabbed to death while delivering newspapers. Her family was one of several families who were unable to seek justice under then-existing North Carolina criminal law for their unborn victims of homicide. However, these families offered their stories in support of a new law recognizing the humanity of the unborn child under the criminal statutes.

Ethan’s law defines “unborn child” as “a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”[i] North Carolina’s protection is broad and appropriate, going further than some of the other 36 states who recognize unborn victims under homicide laws.  It is one of 28 states to grant legal recognition at every stage of gestation.

Another victory for legal recognition and protection of the unborn child from this year comes from the Alabama Supreme Court decision recognizing the unborn child as a person under Alabama’s wrongful death statute (civil law).[ii] The Court overturned previous decisions in order to grant legal recognition to the unborn child from the moment of conception under civil law.

In this case, the Court looked to the legal precedent for personhood that was set by Alabama’s fetal homicide law. This decision brought the civil law in line with criminal law and legislative intent. Alabama is one of 38 states that allow wrongful death actions on behalf of the unborn child, 10 of which allow actions for pre-viable children.

With 37 states recognizing the unborn child under criminal law and 38 states recognizing the unborn child under civil law, there can be no doubt that there is widespread recognition of the personhood of the unborn child in the United States.

To assist states in their efforts to recognize and protect the unborn child under the law, AUL has drafted model legislation including the “Crimes Against the Unborn Child Act,” the “Unborn Wrongful Death Act,” the “Pregnant Woman’s Protection Act,” and the “Born-Alive Infant Protection Act,” which are available here.

i. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-23.1


LifeNews Note: Mary Novick is a paralegal at Americans United for Life.