Baby Roe: Personhood laws and how they affect access to abortions

A sign outside a a reproductive health center warning away protestors

A sign outside a a reproductive health center warning away protestors

March was Women’s History Month. It is wonderful to have a month like this dedicated to all that we women have contributed to society. All the little victories that we have gained in the past 50 years are not to be taken lightly. It is important to have these months commemorating the monumental occasions and privileges gained, like access to medication that allows us to have some control over our reproductive cycles so we do not have to pop out a kid every year. Little moments in U.S. history where #MeToo, #TimesUp, and other movements like these gained traction.

Included in these moments is the pivotal decision in 1973 of Roe v. Wade in which American women were able to gain access to abortions. The court case also made way for Planned Parenthood and more accessible contraception.

However, we still have cases come out like that of “Baby Roe” in which a father from Alabama has claimed “wrongful death” damages. The man is pursuing a case against the abortion clinic that made the abortion drug available to the mother of his child, who was a minor at the time of pregnancy. A judge in the state is allowing the case to move forward.

Alabama has a “Personhood” law, which states that the state of Alabama will “ensure the protection of the rights of the unborn child in all manners and measures lawful and appropriate” and that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.” While not outright banning abortion - a move deemed illegal by the Roe v. Wade decision that states cannot ban abortion prior to fetal viability - the Personhood law does pave the path for a new way to legally go after women who choose to have abortions for whatever reason.

There are only three states in the US, as of 2018, that have such a law banning access to abortion. South Carolina is currently moving forward with a similar bill that could pass in the state house. This blatantly disregards the actions and efforts of so many people.

In 1973, Roe v. Wade was passed by a court of nine male judges. The Roe decision defined "fetal viability" as "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb.” That placed the “life” at 23 weeks and not from conception.  As stated earlier, the case also prohibited states from banning abortion prior to fetal viability.

History moves in cycles. That is why it is so important to educate ourselves on our history and how we got to where we are today. I would also like to encourage you to take time to reflect on what we have now and what we didn’t have before.


Article by staff writer Brandy Del Rio