When Fetuses Gain Personhood: Understanding the Impact on IVF, Contraception, Medical Treatment, Criminal Law, Child Support, and Beyond

After suffering setbacks, the fetal personhood movement has gained support. The theory of a fetus as a legal person has become the framework of anti-abortion states and was highlighted in Justice Alito's majority opinion in Dobbs, creating a path for a fetal right to life argument under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Anti-abortion activists ignore the consequences of granting fertilized eggs constitutional rights, but a full range of radical implications exist. Fetal personhood changes the legal rights and status of pregnant people and forces them to forfeit their own personhood. The words of an anti-abortion voter perfectly capture this: "I understand women saying, 'I need to control my own body,' but once you have another body in there, that's their body."

Read Pregnancy Justice's first-of-its-kind issue brief detailing the personhood movement, its legal doctrine, applications, implications, constitutional and statutory interpretation arguments against personhood measures, and practical legislative recommendations for policymakers and related disciplines.

It is clear that lawmakers cannot control the consequences of their laws, as evidenced by pregnancy criminalization and Pregnancy Justice's research on the subject. We must work not only to reject and dismantle fetal personhood ideology but also to advance the full personhood and equality of all people with the capacity for pregnancy.

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