Could The Father Of An Aborted Fetus Be Granted Probate?
From time to time something drifts across the pond from the U.S. we can’t resist. Today’s bizarre snippet concerns a 19-year-old-man who is suing the doctors who terminated his girlfriend’s unborn child. However he is not doing this entirely on his own behalf. He has named his late child “Baby Roe” as co-plaintiff.
Chauncey Alcorn writing in Daily Mail says the joint lawsuit is against the Alabama Women’s Centre for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville, Alabama. The defendant’s website says it offers medical and surgical abortions in a supportive environment.
A Madison County, Alabama Probate Judge concurred that ‘Baby Roe’ could join Ryan Magers’ lawsuit. He did this on the basis of a November 2018 anti-abortion ballot that decided in a supportive environment in the state.
The Basis of Ryan Magers’ Complaint
The no longer dad-to-be says the Alabama Women’s Centre for Reproductive Alternatives violated the developing child’s right to life under the November 2018 amendment. Apparently the fetus was seven-weeks-old at the time they gave his presumably ex-girlfriend a tablet.
The case appears unprecedented in Alabama law and could open the floodgates to numerous more lawsuits by disappointed fathers. If the Judge awards damages to the unborn child then presumably the heirs would be the parents in terms of the rues of succession, although nobody’s talking money yet.
Prosecuting attorney Brent Helms told Daily Mail, “The only thing that Ryan Magers has is the right to sue, and so that is what Ryan is doing, suing on behalf of Baby Roe’s estate. We are confident, and this is a step in the right direction.”
Ilyse Hogue, president of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws Pro-Choice America, tweeted “The lawsuit is a ‘very scary case’ that is ‘asserting a woman’s rights are third in line.” This case may make more waves yet if the cash register tinkles, and Ryan Magers becomes administrator of the fetus’ estate.
What Would the Situation Be in the UK?
Procuring or administering an abortion is illegal in the UK, although there are exceptions in common law and statute according to the BMA. Generally speaking, a doctor must put the mother’s life first in a life-threatening situation, and the expectant mother must give consent.
European law regards a fetus as an ‘in utero part of the mother and thus its rights are held by the mother’. Oxbridge Notes puts an interesting spin on whether a fetus in the UK has rights. It says it must have, or else “there would be no need to regulate abortion and restrict it”.
Moreover, an unborn royal child could have rights in terms of succession. This would be the case if the deceased monarch did not already have a child, and their surviving spouse carrying the child acted as regent on their behalf. In that case the developing child has more than a quasi-right, it seems.
Hence it’s possible – in the conflicted world of U.S. law and politics – that ‘Baby Roe’ be awarded damages, that that the mother be excluded from the estate because she consented to the termination. In that case, Ryan Magers could well collect the whole lot while administering the probate of behalf of ‘the deceased’.