Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Hicks v. State of Alabama Supreme Court of Alabama (2014)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

The defendant was charged with chemical endangerment of a child for ingesting cocaine while pregnant, which resulted in her child testing positive for cocaine at birth. The defendant was convicted after a guilty plea, but challenged her conviction on appeal, arguing that the legislature did not intend for Alabama’s chemical endangerment statute to apply to unborn children. Additionally, she alleged that if the statute applied to unborn children, the law was: (1) bad public policy because it does not protect unborn children and (2) unconstitutionally vague. The Alabama Supreme Court rejected Hicks’ claims, relying on an Alabama Court of Appeal decision, Ankrom v. State, 152 So.3d 373 (Ala. Crim. App. 2011), in which the court held that the plain language of the statute included an unborn child or viable fetus in the term “child.” The Alabama Supreme Court refused to consider the defendant’s public policy arguments, stating that policy arguments are ill-suited to judicial resolution and should instead be directed at the legislature. Finally, the court concluded that the law was not vague, as it “unambiguously protects all children, born and unborn, from exposure to controlled substances.”



Reproductive Health Services, et al. v. Marshall, et al. United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Northern Division (2017)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

A licensed abortion facility and its owner sued Alabama’s Attorney General and the Montgomery County District Attorney. Among Plaintiffs claims were allegations that the 2014 amendments to Alabama Code Title 26’s judicial bypass law violated the due process rights of minor patients seeking abortions because it failed to provide an adequate judicial bypass by permitting adverse parties and the court to disclose private information about the minor to others. Citing Supreme Court precedent enshrining a minor’s constitutional right to seek an abortion through judicial bypass without outside interference violating her privacy, the court ultimately agreed with the plaintiffs and severed the unconstitutional provisions allowing the participation of (1) the district attorney, (2) the minor’s parents, and (3) a guardian ad litem for the fetus from the judicial bypass process.



A.F. re: Self-Satisfying Measure Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación (Supreme Court of Argentina) (2011)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

A.F. sought an abortion for her 15-year-old daughter, A.G., whose stepfather raped and impregnated her.  The courts of first and second instance rejected A.F.’s petition because Argentina’s criminal code permits abortion in cases of sexual assault of a mentally impaired woman and A.G. is not mentally impaired.  The appellate court, however, authorized the abortion, holding that the relevant statute should be read broadly to encompass all pregnancies resulting from sexual assault.  Following the abortion, the local guardian ad-litem and family representative (“Tutor Ad-litem y Asesor de Familia e Incapaces”) challenged the appellate court’s decision on the basis that the appellate court’s broader interpretation of the statute violated constitutional protections for the fetus as well as protections found in treaties to which Argentina is a signatory.  Despite the abortion having already been performed, the Supreme Court agreed to adjudicate the matter given its importance and affirmed the appellate court’s ruling, noting that (1) certain of the referenced treaties had been expressly amended to permit abortions resulting from sexual assault and (2) any distinction between victims of sexual assault who are mentally impaired in relation to those who are not is irrational and therefore unconstitutional.