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A protester holds a sign at a pro-choice demonstration in 2014. (Photo: Zhu/Flickr/cc)

'A Very Scary Case': Placing Rights of Woman Last, Alabama Judge Allows Boyfriend to Sue Abortion Clinic With Fetus as Co-Plaintiff

"When the fetus becomes a person as per Alabama 'personhood law,' a woman is rendered a walking incubator with less rights than a fetus and the man."

Julia Conley

An Alabama county court recognized an aborted fetus as a plaintiff in a lawsuit Tuesday, opening a new chapter in the fight for reproductive rights in the United States.

Madison County probate court Judge Frank Barger allowed Ryan Magers to name the fetus his girlfriend had aborted as a co-plaintiff in his case against Alabama Women's Center.

The judge's decision to establish an estate for the fetus, allowing the suit to move forward, came four months after the passage of Amendment 2 by voters in a state referendum last November. The law, which passed by 18 percentage points, gives fetuses the same legal rights held by a person under the state constitution.

Women's rights advocates on social media slammed the decision, noting that it was perhaps the first time in U.S. history a fetus was named as a co-plaintiff in a case.

As NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue wrote on social media, the "very scary case" asserts that a "woman's rights [are] third in line," after those of a man who impregnates her and the fetus she aborts.

Author Mona Eltahawy added that the case effectively renders the woman—and all women in Alabama—"walking incubators" with fewer rights than a fetus.

According to WAAY 31, a local ABC affiliate, Magers' girlfriend obtained an abortion two years ago when she was just six weeks pregnant.

"Pregnant people are full citizens with bodily autonomy and a right to choose the outcome of their pregnancy," wrote Dr. Katie McHugh, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Rights. "Attempting to grant a six week gestational sac equal rights is both unlawful and idiotic."

The Alabama Women's Center has until April 1 to respond to the suit. Magers' attorney told WAAY 31 he believes the case could eventually proceed to the state Supreme Court.


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