Utah court declares preborn baby a “minor child” in wrongful death lawsuit

A baby's smaller, less developed hand.  Less valuable?  Less human?  Hardly.

The Supreme Court of Utah has deemed a preborn baby a “minor child” under Utah statute after a health clinic in Provo disregarded Amelia Sanchez’s plea to induce labor when she was pregnant, likely resulting in the death of her unborn son in April of 2006.

According to the lawsuit, Sanchez was 39, carrying a high-risk pregnancy, and her doctor had indicated the baby may have had a precursor for Down syndrome.  She was having contractions and felt her child’s heartbeat was growing faint the day before he was due.  When she asked her doctors to induce labor, she was told she would “be in more pain” if it was time for her to give birth and her request was rejected.  Her pain became more severe and when she went in for an ultrasound a few days later, she learned her child had died.

The court documents stated that the baby’s umbilical cord had wrapped around his throat, but he did not have any other birth defects.

Amelia Sanchez and Miguel Carranza (the child’s father) sued the clinic for wrongful death of the child, but the lawsuit was put at a standstill so the Supreme Court of Utah could determine if their preborn son could legally be a subject of the claim.

Chief Justice Christine Durham stated that the language of the Utah law implies that “the term ‘minor child,’ as used in this statute, includes an unborn child… In general usage, the term ‘child’ may refer to a young person, a baby or a fetus… thereby encompassing an unborn child.”

Only one of the five court justices, Ronald Nehring, disagreed with the ruling.

“The usage of ‘minor child’ to refer to a fetus is far from being general. It is unique. It is usage specific to anti-abortion political rhetoric…” Nehring stated.  However, referring to an unborn human being as a “child” is in no way unique, contrary to what many pro-abortion rights activists and organizations claim: major medical groups such as the Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and Johns Hopkins all refer to the unborn as babies or children.

Kevin J. Sutterfield represented Sanchez and Carranza in this case.  He explained to the Salt Lake Tribune that he was “pleased the court has recognized that a full-term preborn child is a person for purposes of wrongful death.”

The Provo clinic’s attorneys declined to speak the Salt Lake Tribune.

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