What would you do if your ex-wife hired someone to kill your baby daughter—and succeeded? What if the evidence was irrefutable, but the law failed to bring criminal charges against any of the acting parties? What if you believed in the rule of law and were unwilling to take it into your own hands? Would you perhaps bring a lawsuit against those responsible for your child’s death—in an effort to find some measure of justice and spare others the same fate? And would anyone begrudge you if you did?
The hypothetical scenario I’ve just described actually belongs to Mario Villegas—formerly of Arizona. I stumbled upon his plight recently via a Rolling Stone piece, but the author had zero sympathy for this grieving father. Instead, she criticized him for not accepting his wife’s child-free “vision of her future.” The reason, of course, is one you’ve likely guessed. Villegas’ baby had yet to be born when her life was violently ended via medical abortion. As such, we don’t even know whether this 6-week embryo was a daughter or son—though “Villegas said he prefers to think of ‘Baby Villegas’ as a girl.”
Stories of men pressuring their girlfriends (or daughters) into having an abortion are so commonplace that it’s easy to forget about all the fathers who grieve impotently by the wayside as their tiny unborn children are torn to pieces. What makes Villegas’ situation so unique is that he may have found a means of legal recourse in post-Roe America. The Rolling Stone headline lays out the framework: “She Wanted An Abortion. Now The Embryo Is Suing Her Doctors.”
Babies, born or unborn, don’t have the capacity to file lawsuits. Nor do the dead. So how does an aborted baby sue her killers for wrongful death? Through an estate, it turns out. “In a probate matter in the Superior Court of Gila County, Arizona” the court document reads, “Mario Villegas filed a petition for formal appointment of Personal Representative, asking that he be appointed a Personal Representative of the Estate of Baby Villegas.” Nicole Santa Cruz, writing for ProPublica, notes the following:
Across the U.S., people have sued for negligence in the death of a fetus or embryo in cases where a pregnant person has been killed in a car crash or a pregnancy was lost because of alleged wrongdoing by a physician. But a court action claiming the wrongful death of an aborted embryo or fetus is a more novel strategy, legal experts said.
For the last half century—and without any qualitative basis for the distinction—American courts have protected the rights of “wanted” babies and stripped the rights of “unwanted” babies. It’s a legal framework every bit as arbitrary and schizophrenic as that established by Dred Scott. It doesn’t matter who or what you are; it only matters where you reside. Depending entirely upon your parentage, you’re either recognized as a person or you’re not.
At the technical level, Baby Villegas’ lawsuit hinges on the assertion that Mrs. Villegas’ abortion was procured in the absence of informed consent as required by the state of Arizona. Mrs. Villegas has since signed an affidavit stating that she wanted the abortion and was informed of her options—though that isn’t quite what’s at issue. It’s not whether or not Mrs. Villegas consented to the abortion in general; it’s whether or not the abortion clinic presented all of the information they’re required to on behalf of the unborn child. The term “unborn child,” in fact, is at the heart of the dispute. Arizona’s A.R.S. §36-2153, which lays out the information that must be communicated before an abortion takes place, uses the term “unborn child” 11 times. The counseling resources provided to Mrs. Villegas, apparently, didn’t use it at all:
Villegas’ lawyer, J. Stanley Martineau, doesn’t dispute that [Mrs. Villegas] signed paperwork consenting to the abortion. He argues her consent wasn’t informed because, among other technical faults, the clinic’s paperwork didn’t use the phrase “unborn child” when describing the embryo, as Arizona’s informed consent statute does. “If you interpret [the statute] literally, any slip-up in what kind of information you give is going to create a potential liability,” Martineau says.
The statute itself declares that should “a violation of this section” occur, the mother or father may “file a civil action to obtain appropriate relief.” For the father to bring suit, he must have been married to the mother when the abortion took place and the pregnancy cannot have been the result of criminal assault. Despite this allowance, it seems Villegas is the first Arizona father to actually seek such recourse. His attorney was referred to him by an Alabama lawyer he’d sought out, who had filed a similar suit in 2019. That case—believed to be the first of its kind—was thrown out by an Alabama circuit court judge who said it was precluded by federal abortion law. The attorney for the defense in the Baby Villegas case pleaded for a similar dismissal, insisting that “U.S. Supreme Court precedent has long protected the constitutional right of a woman to obtain an abortion,” but that is no longer the case. The Supreme Court has admitted there is no constitutional defense for abortion, and Gila County Superior Court Judge Bryan B. Chambers has said that Villegas may proceed with his charge of wrongful death.
There’s no telling how the court will rule in Baby Villegas vs. Camelback Family Planning, but the mere fact that the case is being heard at all has abortion advocates up in arms. Their primary complaint? According to Tessa Stuart, author of the Rolling Stone editorial, “elevating an embryo’s rights instantly strips a woman of her own.” This is an all-or-nothing assessment—a zero-sum game that pits mothers against their offspring. If a mother doesn’t have the right to kill her unborn child, Stuart argues, then she doesn’t have any rights at all. How's that for melodramatic? Never mind the gender of the one making the claim, it espouses an exceedingly low view of women. Are we really to believe that the only way for women to compete with men is to be able to off their unborn children—or at least the ones who show up at the wrong time?
Much of the media response to the Villegas lawsuit—including that offered by Rolling Stone—frames the mother as the victim and the father as the perpetrator. They’ve assumed him to be malevolent rather than grieving while the primary victim—the dead baby—is barely acknowledged at all. Stuart posits that the former spouses simply had competing visions of the future. The wife’s vision of her future was “incompatible” with the husband’s vision of their embryo’s future. But what does that mean exactly?
Turner complains that Mr. Villegas is “asking the court to disregard [his ex-wife’s future] entirely”—a future that she wanted to be void of children. The problem of course is there was already a child growing inside her. When one spouse wants to kill their baby and the other spouse doesn’t, where is the room for compromise? Adoption, perhaps? Somehow I don’t think Mrs. Villegas would have been amenable to that suggestion. One of the best ways to demonstrate the absurdity of Turner’s moral calculus is to simply swap out a couple terms—say “embryo” for “baby” and “abortion” for “killing.” Here’s how the account reads, minus all the typical euphemisms:
Nearly four years after a woman [hired someone to kill her baby], she finds herself mired in an ongoing lawsuit over that decision. A judge allowed the woman’s ex-husband to establish an estate for the [dead child]. The ex-husband filed a wrongful death lawsuit against [his child’s killers] in 2020. The ex-wife said that [when she had their baby killed] the two were already talking about obtaining a divorce, which was finalized later that year. “We were not happy together at all,” she said. She [had their baby killed] because she [didn’t want] to be a parent and her relationship with Villegas was unstable. “I never wanted children and he knew that… I barely take care of myself as it is.”
Nobody would attempt to justify Mrs. Villegas’ decision or criticize Mr. Villegas’ lawsuit if their child had simply been born before being terminated, but all sorts of claims have been brought against Mr. Villegas in an effort to bolster the case for abortion: He’s been married twice before. He already has other children. He was supposed to have had a vasectomy. He was emotionally abusive. He’s an ex-marine with a previous conviction for aggravated assault. He supposedly made fake social media profiles and hacked into his wife’s social media accounts. It’s certainly possible that Villegas was not a good husband. It’s much easier to be a bad husband than a good one, but does anything on this list of grievances remotely justify the killing of an innocent baby? Of course not, but I can already hear the rebuttal.
IT WASN’T A BABY YET!!!
The “it’s not a baby yet” argument is an exceedingly flimsy one—not least because “baby” is an imprecise moniker. It can’t be clearly defined on the edges. Nevertheless, Bill Burr offered a fairly brilliant rebuttal to this claim during his recent Live at Red Rocks performance which is available to the world via Netflix. And there’s no way to accuse Bill Burr of being an anti-abortion shill. He’s not even pro-life, but he still managed to observe the following:
“It’s not a baby yet.” That’s what they say, which may or may not be true. I don’t know; I’m not a doctor. But I’ll tell you, my gut tells me that doesn’t make sense. It’s not a baby yet. That would be like if I was making a cake and I poured some batter in a pan, and I put it in the oven and then five minutes later you came by and you grabbed the pan and you threw it across the floor. And I went, “What the F—?! You just ruined my birthday cake!” And then you were like, “Well, that wasn’t a cake yet.” It’s like, “Well, it would have been if you didn’t do what you just did!”
That’s pretty astute, right? To claim that batter isn’t a cake until it comes out of the oven is irrelevant. It has no bearing on the ethics of flinging it across the floor. The same is true of the word games we play with abortion. Are we really trying to justify the violent destruction of innocent and helpless human beings on a technicality? It’s not a baby yet.
On the outside chance that you don’t find the cake analogy compelling, here’s a less-hypothetical scenario for your consideration. Just imagine a young husband and his pregnant wife. Now imagine it’s Mother’s Day. But instead of buying his wife a present, getting her flowers, or taking her to dinner, this young husband follows Planned Parenthood’s asinine logic: It’s not a baby yet; therefore my wife isn’t a mother—and so he does nothing. Would even the most ardent abortion enthusiast justify such boorish behavior? I doubt it. If you don’t celebrate your pregnant wife on Mother’s Day, you are a bona fide psychopath—because a woman is never more of a mother than when she is literally carrying a child inside her body.
Seeming to know that it’s impossible to justify abortion on the merits, those who publicly defend it invariably switch to pragmatic redirects. “We need abortion because…” Tessa Stuart does this in the Rolling Stone article when she warns that recognizing the rights of human beings in the womb “could end up outlawing or curtailing the practice of IVF in at least thirty states, or [require] the ‘adoption’ of unused embryos [and] could hamper research that involves embryonic stem cells.” To all this, the collective response should be a resounding: Good! IVF, as it’s practiced in the main, is a human rights travesty. To bolster their chances of success, more eggs are fertilized than can reasonably be implanted. The extra embryos—ie the extra human beings!—are discarded or frozen indefinitely. And embryonic stem cells can only be obtained by killing embryos. Their use is unethical and as it's turned out, not particularly effective.
None of the editorials I’ve read on the Villegas lawsuit criticized the abortion clinic for killing Baby Villegas. Instead, all the criticism has been leveled at Mr. Villegas himself—for suing the abortion clinic that killed his child. Abortion advocates worry that this brazen audacity will be “weaponized” against those noble institutions that kill babies for a living. Unfortunately, there’s not much chance of that. For such a lawsuit to be brought—at least in Arizona, the father must have been married to the mother when the abortion took place. This precludes almost 90% of U.S. abortions since almost 90% of U.S. abortions are performed on unmarried women.
Limiting sex to marriage is such a laughably archaic constraint that fewer and fewer people dare suggest it, but here’s something worth considering. In the United States, the price for throwing off this historic constraint is the slaughter of roughly 2,200 unborn children every day. Every single day. These are the smallest and most vulnerable members of the human community, but we sacrifice them on the alter of unencumbered sex. And there’s little doubt we’re less happy in the end. The warning of Romans 1:24 is this. Be careful what you demand of God, because he might just give it to you.
I do hope that the state of Arizona provides a measure of justice for Baby Villegas, deceased, but so long as men and women—mostly men—insist on separating sex from lifelong commitment, the bloodshed will continue. And Planned Parenthood is right there to cash in on this sordid exchange. The death of Baby Villegas is deserving of judgment and it is judgment. That’s the tragic irony of the intersect where we now reside. We are doing to our own children what only the most brutal conquerers would do to a vanquished foe. We are inflicting upon ourselves—on a daily basis—a version of the same plague that the angel of the Lord visited upon Egypt all those centuries ago. Mrs. Villegas wanted a child-free future—a barren future—and she got it. But that may well prove to be the heaviest judgment of all.
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. Subscribe to Michael's Substack for his latest articles and recordings. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.