On December 30, 2016, the Supreme Court in Alabama made a unanimous decision to permit Kimberly Stinnett to file a civil lawsuit against on-call physician for wrongful death of her first trimester baby in the womb. The state of Alabama has recognized in this case that an unborn child is protected under the law as a person.
Stinnett miscarried after the physician allegedly misdiagnosed her with an ectopic pregnancy and gave her a shot of Methotrexate.
A Jefferson County judge had previously dismissed the case because the baby had not yet reached the stage of viability. But the Alabama Supreme Court recognized that under the Wrongful Death Act, the child was protected just as any other person and had been since the moment of conception.
Justice Tom Parker said:
"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," Parker wrote. "This has not always been the case in Alabama. Alabama used to deny unborn children who had not yet grown strong enough to survive outside of their mother's womb the protections of Alabama's wrongful-death statute."
The Court had already established in 2011 with the Mack v. Carmack case that the standard set forth by Roe v. Wade giving women the right to abort their babies before the age of viability, simply did not apply to wrongful-death law.
"The Court reaffirms that principle today," Parker wrote. "The use of the viability standard established in Roe is incoherent as it relates to wrongful-death law because, among other reasons, life begins at the moment of conception. The fact that life begins at conception is beyond refutation."
Dr. Kennedy argued unsuccessfully that physicians are granted an exception from criminal prosecution when death of a “non-viable fetus” is due to a "mistake, or unintentional error,” and a physician should, therefore, not be held to civil liability.
But the same malpractice law that protects a health care provider when accused of negligence in any civil case also applies when that alleged negligence affects the life of a child in the womb.
Stinnett’s attorney Steven Heninger stated he does "not expect any attempt to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court," and he believes the case will have impact outside of Alabama.
In 1973, the state of Texas argued during the Roe v. Wade proceedings that "the fetus is a 'person' within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment." Justice Harry Blackmun responded, "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment (emphasis mine).
Alabama has just joined six other states (Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia) that now permit civil actions involving wrongful death of a baby in the womb at any time before established viability. Each decision flies in the face of Roe v Wade.
Every time precedence is set, we take a baby step in the right direction – toward protection of innocent unborn babies. While each step is encouraging, it is impossible to celebrate until the holocaust of abortion has come to an end. The delay is crushing, the injustice is overpowering, and the incongruousness is baffling.
How can a baby in the womb be a person if a doctor kills the baby on purpose or on accident but only if the mother hasn’t specifically presented herself for an abortion – only if she hasn’t ordered the baby’s death?
Thank God for this decision. We must continue to cry out to God for mercy and do everything within our sphere of influence to end the killing.