The U.S. Supreme court turned away a case Tuesday that would determine if unborn children are entitled to have constitutional rights following the historic overturning of Roe v. Wade last summer.
In 2019, the Catholics for Life group and two pregnant women challenged a newly enacted Rhode Island law that codified abortion rights. However, according to Reuters, the Rhode Island Supreme court ruled the plaintiffs lacked proper legal standing for the case.
But after justices overturned the Roe decision in June, the plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to consider the case.
“This Court should grant the writ to finally determine whether prenatal life, at any gestational age, enjoys constitutional protection – considering the full and comprehensive history and tradition of our Constitution and law supporting personhood for unborn human beings,” the petitioners wrote.
The court declined without comment.
The plaintiff’s lawyers have not responded to requests for comment.
Rhode Island Democratic Governor Daniel McKee expressed satisfaction with the justices’ decision to Reuters.
“Governor McKee believes that we should be expanding access to reproductive healthcare for women,” spokesperson Matt Sheaff said in a statement, adding that the governor “is committed to using his veto pen to block any legislation that would take our state backwards.”
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s June ruling to overturn abortion rights that the court took no position on “if and when prenatal life is entitled to any of the rights enjoyed after birth.”
The plaintiff’s lawyers argued the case “presents the opportunity for this court to meet that inevitable question head on,” referring to if the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment grants a fetus due process and equal protection rights. In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the nation’s highest court found that “the word ‘person,’ used in the Amendment does not include the unborn.”
Prenatal life, or fetal personhood, has sparked heavy debate recently between pro-abortion advocates and those protecting the sanctity of life. While abortion rights supporters claim personhood laws could impact in vitro fertilization or subject women to murder charges, pro-life advocates argue that fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses should have the same rights as newborns.
Since the court’s ruling, more than a dozen states have enacted near-total abortion bans.
Georgia state law following the Dobbs decision allows pregnant women to claim their unborn embryo as a dependent on their tax returns, according to The Hill.
Axios reports Ohio state lawmakers are also considering creating a law that would recognize personhood from the moment of conception.