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Judge dismisses wrongful death lawsuit over abortion

By KIM CHANDLER Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama judge has dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf on an aborted embryo by a man who was upset that his ex-girlfriend ended her pregnancy.

Madison County Circuit Judge Chris Comer ruled Friday that Ryan Magers could not bring a wrongful death claim over a legal abortion. Magers had sued the Alabama clinic where he believed his ex-girlfriend obtained the abortion pill, on behalf of himself and the estate of the aborted embryo.

The Alabama case, which attempted to vest the embryo with legal rights, drew national attention in March after a probate judge allowed Magers to open a legal estate for the aborted embryo called “Baby Roe” in court filings. In seeking to open the estate, Magers pointed to a newly approved state constitutional amendment that says Alabama recognizes the “rights of unborn children.” The probate judge’s decision allowed Magers to represent the estate of the aborted embryo in the litigation.

In the brief order, Comer wrote that Magers didn’t assert the defendants were engaged in unlawful conduct and the wrongful death claims are “precluded by existing state and federal laws pertaining to the conduct in question.”

The ruling says that although Magers placed “great significance to the probate court’s” decision, Judge Comer found the probate court’s process “to be ministerial in nature.” The phrase means it follows a prescribed procedure.

Magers and his then-girlfriend were both teenagers when she got pregnant in 2017, according to the lawsuit. Magers said the young woman had an abortion when she was about six weeks pregnant.

The clinic, the Alabama Women’s Center, had asked for the case to be dismissed. A lawyer for the clinic told the judge during a July hearing that there was no wrongful death because abortion is legal.

Dr. Yashica Robinson, an obstetrician who serves as the medical director of the clinic, called the lawsuit “thinly veiled attempts to abolish abortion, and to harass and intimidate abortion providers and women.”

“We are elated that this attempt to push abortion care out of reach for women in Alabama was unsuccessful. Alabama Women’s Center remains committed to serving women in our state. We will continue to push back against all attacks on women’s rights to essential care!” Robinson wrote in a statement.

J. Brent Helms, an attorney representing Magers, said they had anticipated the decision to dismiss the case.

“We expected it would be dismissed at the trial court level. We knew we had to get to the appellate court level before we’d get traction,” Helms wrote in an email. He said Magers is weighing whether to appeal.
This story has been corrected to say the judge ruled Friday, not Monday.

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