Carliss Chatman’s If a Fetus Is a Person, It Should Get Child Support, Due Process and Citizenship brilliantly captures the moment America is in, where abortion rights hang in the balance as state legislators, like those in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, and elsewhere clamor to embrace fetal personhood. But, as Professor Chatman illustrates, legislators have expressed no interest in the full logical extent of this policy or the rights that should attach to a fetus if their measures ultimately become effective. The article incisively demonstrates how fetal personhood is singularly focused on ending abortion in the United States and is gaining traction notwithstanding the fact that its advocates have not reasoned through the “unintended and potentially absurd consequences” of their policy positions.
The forces laboring to suppress reproductive rights are wielding axes against Roe v. Wade and its progeny, rather than scalpels to eat away at the fringe of abortion rights as states have attempted to do for decades. And all of this comes just years after similar attempts failed with some of the most conservative statewide electorates in the United States. The recent anti-reproductive justice sledgehammers lack nuance and are not fully reasoned through, as Professor Chatman illustrates, because these initiatives are about much more than abortion—they are about the fervor to consolidate counter-majoritarian power before a rapidly closing window of opportunity ends. Legislators and activists are engaged in social engineering unmoored from any popularly embraced social movement in a contentious moment in constitutional time.