I began seeing articles claiming that a recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling could undercut Roe v. Wade because it ruled that the unborn come under the definition of the term “child,” and so I decided to take a look for myself.
It is an interesting–but very narrow–opinion. Two women were convicted of taking dangerous drugs while pregnant. The facts were not in dispute. The question before the court was whether a chemically-caused “child” endangering statute applied, as in the appealed cases, to the unborn. The Alabama Supremes ruled specifically that it does. From Ankrom v Alabama:
As the [dictionary] definitions cited by the state indicate, the plain meaning of the word “child” is broad enough to encompass all children–born and unborn…Not only have the courts of this state interpreted the term “child” to include a viable fetus in other contexts, the dictionary definition of the term “child” explicitly includes an unborn person or fetus. In everyday usage, there is nothing extraordinary about using the term “child” to include a viable fetus.
Okay. Unborn fetuses are protected in law, including in some abortion contexts preventing late term abortions. So, how is Roe possibly impacted? The court ruled that the term “child” also applies to non viable fetuses:
To the extent that the Court of Criminal Appeals limited the applicability of the chemical-endangerment statute to viable unborn children,…this court expressly rejects that distinction as inconsistent with the plain meaning of the world “child” and with the laws of this state.
Okay, so all unborn children are, well, children. That undercuts Roe, right? Wrong!