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Prof. Carliss Chatman on the Legal Definition of Personhood

“We ought to take our laws seriously. Under the laws, people have all sorts of rights and protections. When a state grants full personhood to a fetus, should they not apply equally?”

Washington and Lee law professor Carliss Chatman contributed an opinion piece to the Washington Post in which she considers the impacts of new state laws seeking to ban abortion. Using Alabama’s new statute as an example, Chatman considers the consequences if a fetus is considered a person. Would child support begin at conception? Could a pregnant immigrant be expelled from the U.S. if she is carrying a citizen? Would a family be able to claim unborn children on their taxes?

Chatman argues that if Roe v. Wade is overturned and states are able to define personhood as Alabama and other states are attempting, they will create a system with two-tiered fetal citizenship where personhood begins at conception for some and at birth for others. “If we follow that logic, we’ll tie our Constitution into a knot no court can untangle.”

You can read the full piece online. You can also watch Prof. Chatman discuss this issue on CBS News.

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