Alabama Supreme Court: ‘unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law’
Updated with further quotations from the ruling at 5:54pm EST
MONTGOMERY, AL, January 11, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Today the Alabama Supreme Court held that the word “child” in Alabama’s chemical endangerment statute applies to the born and unborn.
The case reached the Supreme Court on an appeal by Amanda Kimbrough who admitted to smoking meth three days before the premature birth of her son Timmy. Born at 25 weeks, Timmy survived only 19 minutes after birth and was found to have died from “accute methamphetamine intoxication.”
The ruling states, “The decision of this Court today is in keeping with the widespread legal recognition that unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.”
“Today,” the court added, “the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion, and that denial is only because of the dictates of Roe.”
“Furthermore, the decision in the present cases is consistent with the Declaration of Rights in the Alabama Constitution, which states that ‘all men are equally free and independent; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’”
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange welcomed the ruling in a statement.
“The Court has ratified our argument that the public policy of our state is to protect life, both born and unborn,” Strange said.
“It is a tremendous victory that the Alabama Supreme Court has affirmed the value of all life, including those of unborn children whose lives are among the most vulnerable of all.”
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The case, Ankrom v. State of Alabama, involved the consolidation of two cases, which addressed the question of whether Alabama’s law against chemical endangerment of children can be applied to unborn children who are exposed to illegal drugs in utero. Courts of appeal in Alabama have upheld convictions of mothers who were charged under the chemical endangerment law, when their children tested positive for illegal drugs at birth.
Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, which had intervened in the case, said his organization “applauds” the decision.
“In personal injury, criminal, and wills and estate law, the trend has been to recognize the unborn child as a human with legal protections, not merely a ‘potential’ human being,” he said.
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion cases are an aberration to law and stand on an island by themselves, and that island will one day disappear.”
Liberty Counsel had filed a brief in the case, which provided the Alabama Supreme Court with a historical review of legal protection for unborn children, dating from ancient Greece to the present day.
According to the brief, common law in England and the United States, with support from the medical and legal professions, recognized that “[l]ife is the immediate gift of God, a right inherent in every individual; and it begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb.”
This understanding remained the prevailing view in the United States through the middle of the 20th Century, when a societal shift prompted a “liberalization” of criminal laws, including restrictions against abortion, culminating in the abortion cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. In those cases the Supreme Court held that unborn children are not “persons” protected by the right to life set forth in the Constitution.