The Supreme Court of Utah ruled that an unborn baby can be considered a “minor child” in cases dealing with the state’s wrongful death statute.
Paul Linton, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, said the decision was particularly important because it included unborn children at any stage of development.
“There aren’t a lot of decisions like that out there,” he told EWTN News on Jan. 5.
The court’s Dec. 20 ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in 2007 by a Utah couple who claimed that the negligence of doctors providing prenatal care had resulted in the death of their unborn child.
During the course of the proceedings, the parents filed a motion to certify a question of law to the Supreme Court of Utah.
The federal district court granted the request and asked the Utah Supreme Court to determine whether unborn children are included in Utah’s wrongful death statute, which referenced the death or injury of a “minor child.”
Although no majority opinion was released, four of the five justices on the state’s highest court agreed that fetuses are included in the law’s use of the term “minor child.”
“In my view, a plain language reading reveals that the term ‘minor child,’ as used in this statute, includes an unborn child,” said Chief Justice Christine Durham.
“The statute does not itself define the term ‘minor child,’ but in general usage the term ‘child’ may refer to a young person, a baby or a fetus,” she explained.
“The term ‘minor’ then, may refer to the period from conception to the age of majority, thereby encompassing an unborn child.”
Because the ruling only addressed the term “minor child” as it is used in Utah’s wrongful death statute, it will not prohibit abortions.
However, Linton explained, the ruling could set an important pro-life precedent in the state.
Utah has several pro-life laws already in place, and according to the Guttmacher Institute, the state’s abortion rates have remained significantly below the national average over the past two decades.