By: Kate Scanlon
A Texas state senator is firing back after, he said, pro-choice activists and some media outlets misrepresented his pro-life bill.
Senate Bill 25, known as the “wrongful birth” bill, would prevent parents from suing a doctor if their baby is born with a disability. The bill would eliminate wrongful birth as a cause of action in medical malpractice lawsuits.
According to CNN, a woman named Dortha Jean Jacobs contracted rubella during the first trimester of her pregnancy in 1968 and her child was born with birth defects. In 1975, the Texas Supreme Court found in Jacobs v. Theimer that Dr. Louis M. Theimer failed to diagnose the rubella and did not inform the family of the long-term risks posed to the child. The court found that the family was entitled to receive “expenses reasonably necessary for the care and treatment of their child’s physical impairment.”
Supporters of Senate Bill 25 say that case set a legal precedent for a doctor to face liability if a baby is born with disabilities identified in utero but the doctor did not recommend abortion. They argue the bill would protect doctors from legal pressure to recommend abortion to their patients after a prenatal disability diagnosis.
The Washington Post reported that although rare, there have been some “wrongful birth” lawsuits in the state.
Critics of the bill say it would allow doctors to lie to patients or to intentionally withhold information about a fetal disability in order to steer their patients away from abortion.
But that isn’t the case, Texas state Sen. Brandon Creighton (R), the author of the bill, told TheBlaze in an interview. “Nothing in this bill relieves a physician of any negligent behavior,” he said. “The bill does not permit a physician to lie.”
Creighton said Senate Bill 25 “does not decrease a physician’s standards of care or responsibilities, period.”
Doctors who fail to meet appropriate standards of care, he said, could still be reported to the Texas Medical Board or sued for gross negligence or any other existing cause of action in malpractice lawsuits. He said that doctors would be shielded only from lawsuits over disabilities they did not cause.
He said he wrote the bill, which he called pro-life, because an existing statute allowing parents to sue a doctor over a child’s disability “sends a message to children with disabilities that their disability is an injury for which someone should be compensated.”
“I just feel that every life is of the same value and that is the wrong message to send, the way this statute is written,” Creighton said.
Several media outlets reported that the bill would allow doctors to lie to their patients. Pro-choice activists made similar claims.
Heather Busby, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a statement to The Huffington Post that the bill “would allow doctors to lie to their patients.”
“Pregnant Texans deserve to feel like they can trust their doctor to provide them with all the information and when the doctor does not do that, those families deserve to have a legal avenue to seek compensation to care for special needs children,” Busby said.
Creighton said the “fake news” article in the Huffington Post “launched a groundswell of concern” about the bill.
“The Huffington Post article that did not ask me to participate in the interview, failed to report to the public the facts that everyone certainly deserves when they are considering judgment on this particular effort,” he said.
Creighton added that “the legislation follows a growing trend across the country to remove [wrongful birth] statues from the books,” arguing that the existing statute is “archaic” and is infrequently used.
According to the Post, nine other states have bans on wrongful birth lawsuits, including Arizona, South Dakota and Indiana.
The bill was approved on a bipartisan vote by the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs last month. Creighton said the Senate will debate it in the coming weeks.