Lawmakers in Maine are weighing whether to amend the state’s wrongful death statutes to allow claims for the deaths of unborn children. The proposal would specifically exempt physicians who conduct legal abortions, although some pro-choice advocates say the law would nonetheless undercut women’s reproductive rights.
Supporters of the measure opine it’s an avenue for family members to seek financial redress when a fetus dies as a result of neglect, default, or some wrongful act – by a driver, a doctor, a manufacturer, or another party. Those opposed to the measure say it isn’t necessary under state law, and the true purpose is to chip away at a woman’s right to choose.
The bill, L.D. 327, would give families the opportunity to seek damages in probate court under wrongful death statutes if a fetus that is viable (i.e., has reached at least 24 weeks of age) dies as a result of someone else’s negligence. This would not be a unique move. In fact, 40 other states – including all of the other states in New England – provide some avenue for family members to seek financial compensation if an unborn baby dies because of another party’s wrongdoing or neglect.