Could the Supreme Court rule that a fetus is a person? Could Congress pass a bill redefining "person" to include fetuses? If Congress did it, would states' homicide statutes apply to abortion?

  • I don't think there can be an easy answer on this one, as it is merely an ethical question. Different legislators have already tried to define this, but they came to quite different rules, resulting in quite different rules about until when (if at all) abortion is legal.
    – PMF
    May 9, 2022 at 12:39

2 Answers 2


The Supreme Court is the final authority on what the Constitution means

If they decide that foetus is captured by “person” in the Constitution then any rights that persons have, foetus’ will have.


The Supreme Court could rule that a fetus is a "person" within the Constitution's meaning of that term, or Congress could pass a law defining "person" to include fetuses.

But neither of those would have any effect on state homicide laws, as different laws can and do use different definitions for the same terms.

For the word to change meaning in state law, the state would need to redefine it. That could likewise happen either judicially or legislatively.

  • Could a constitutional amendment say something like "in all circumstances, the word 'person' shall be construed to include, at minimum, all human beings, born or unborn"? Would that affect state laws?
    – Someone
    May 9, 2022 at 16:20
  • A constitutional amendment would be a heavy lift, but yes.
    – bdb484
    May 9, 2022 at 17:45
  • Note, though, that states could avoid that effect by amending their own laws to say something along the lines of "any law extending protection to a 'person' does not extend that protection to a fetus."
    – bdb484
    May 9, 2022 at 18:42

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