In the first major abortion case following the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court refused a case from Rhode Island about whether unborn babies have a right to life. Pro-life groups have long made the case that unborn children have a right to life under the 14th Amendment, with the hope that the Supreme Court would someday recognize that right. The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will not take up Jane Doe et al. v. McKee, a case brought by two parents on behalf of their unborn children and the organization Catholics for Life against Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee (D) and the state’s government.
The lawsuit challenged Rhode Island’s law that upholds abortion rights and argues that fetuses and embryos, regardless of their gestational age, are entitled to due process and equal protection rights under the Constitution. Petitioners brought the case after it was dismissed in a lower state court and the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed that ruling, finding the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case because fetuses do not have due process rights under the Constitution.
The Fourteenth Amendment says that no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Many lawyers and scholars see unborn children as “persons” under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, and state-level homicide laws therefore cannot discriminate by protecting live people but not unborn people.