The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who had a miscarriage can sue her doctor for wrongful death, according to a decision issued last Friday.
The woman, Kimberly Stinnett of Helena, Alabama, was around six weeks pregnant when she first began experiencing severe complications related to her pregnancy. She had a miscarriage a few weeks later, after a doctor, Karla Kennedy, administered medical treatment for a potential ectopic pregnancy.
The decision reverses a previous ruling in an Alabama circuit court that argued that Stinnett’s wrongful death suit could not proceed since the fetus was not yet viable, or able to survive outside her uterus. The ruling alarms both obstetricians, who fear lawsuits after every miscarriage, and abortion supporters, who see it as a further way to legally turn embryos into people and limit abortion rights.
Last week’s decision was unanimous, with all eight Supreme Court justices agreeing that the case should move forward.
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“Today, this Court again reaffirms the principle that unborn children are protected by Alabama’s wrongful-death statute from the moment life begins at conception,” Alabama Supreme Court justice Tom Parker wrote in a special concurring opinion. Parker has figured prominently in the so-called personhood movement, which seeks to dismantle abortion rights by claiming that fetuses have the same rights as people under the Constitution.
“This was a significant decision for both Alabama and the country,” Steve Heninger, Stinnett’s lawyer, told BuzzFeed News via email. “This case has reemphasized the value of life from conception.”