Texas 'Wrongful Birth' Bill May Prevent Parents From Suing Doctors For Witholding Info On Baby Abnormalities


Doctors can legally lie to parents about the condition of the fetus when they feel the client may seek remedy, such as abortion, if the fetus has serious health and physical problem, and parents cannot sue them for withholding the information from them.

This is not farfetched, as Texas Senate is poised to pass the bill protecting doctors from lawsuits that may stem from "wrongful birth."

"[The bill] will send a message that Texas does not believe that a life ... is an injury in which parents need a damage payment," State Sen. Brandon Creighton said.

No 'Wrongful Birth'

"Wrongful birth" lawsuits date back to 1975. In the case Jacobs v. Theimer, Dr. Louis M. Theimer was sued by Dortha Jean Jacobs and her husband on the ground that he failed to diagnose a serious disease during her pregnancy and did not inform them on the risks it posed to the fetus.

The doctor's failure to inform them of the health condition led Jacobs to give "birth to a child whose major organs were defective."

The court decided in favor of the complainant and ordered the award of reasonable expenses needed for the "care and treatment of their child's physical impairment," which total amounted to $21,000 in 1973.

Creighton, a Republican and the bill's author, said the case had set a precedent acknowledging that "there are births that are wrongful."

The Republican state senator is standing on the other side of the fence saying, "There are no wrongful births."

But This Bill Is 'Wrong'

The bill, which was forwarded to the Senate Committee on State Affairs last week, is fraught with drama and high with emotions.

Opponents of the bill, comprised mostly of abortion-rights supporters, described the bill as a way of giving health professionals the license to lie to patients on the true conditions of their fetuses.

The bill, if approved, would open the possibility of doctors "lying to patients about the health of their fetuses when they feel that the patient might seek an abortion if told that the fetus has a long-term health problem."

Rachel Tittle, one of those who opposed the bill, said she experienced the dilemma of learning too late in her pregnancy the health of her fetus.

If discovered early, she could have sought some therapy to save the situation and give her fetus a chance. She said the bill, however, "takes that chance away."

Tittle, a freelance science writer, told the state Senate committee it is not right when doctors may decide to lie on the true conditions of the fetus for fear that the parents might decide for an abortion.

"This bill would be wrong," she said.

Supporters of the bill shot down the argument, saying that "this is a bill without a hidden agenda."

According to Texans for Life president Kyleen Wright, the bill will right what is wrong.

The bill does not restrict "access to testing and in no way restricts access to abortion and in no way regulates abortion," Jennifer Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conferences of Bishops, added.

Under the bill, a doctor could still face lawsuits for malpractice or negligence.


The bill is a few steps away to becoming a law, as the State Affairs Committee approved it on Feb. 27.

"Children born with disabilities ought to have the same rights as any abled person," Creighton said.

If approved, the state of Texas will join the states of Arizona, South Dakota, and Indiana, banning lawsuits on "wrongful birth."

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