A bill that would protect doctors who lie to women when their fetus has a disability is one step closer to being passed
The 1973 SCOTUS decision in Roe v. Wade ruled that women have a legal right to abortion under the 14th Amendment. But even though a woman’s right to choose is crystal clear and legally sound, (in fact, SCOTUS doubled-down on its pro-choice decision in the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey) that doesn’t stop conservative lawmakers from trying to come up with ways to craft laws that would in essence, circumvent the system.
The latest in these bald-faced attempts to attack a woman’s right to choose? Texas SB 25. The bill unanimously passed the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs this week, and is now headed to the full Senate.
On it’s face, SB 25 doesn’t seem that problematic. It’s a bill that protects doctors from being sued for “wrongful birth” by former patients. The bill states: “A cause of action may not arise, and damages may not be awarded, on behalf of any person, based on the claim that but for the act or omission of another, a person would not have been permitted to have been born alive but would have been aborted.”
Yet the bill was contested, and for good reason. Here’s the problem. Wrongful birth lawsuits aren’t really a thing. “The thing is, I’ve practiced medical malpractice for 30 years and I have never brought one of these,” said Kay Van Wey, an attorney in Dallas tells Dallas News. “I know all the other experienced medical malpractice lawyers in Dallas, and I don’t know any of them who have brought these lawsuits.”
The real issue with SB 25 is by protecting doctors from lawsuits due to their omissions, the law gives them the power to lie to an expectant mother. Opponents of the bill fear a doctor may decide to withhold information about any severe disabilities a fetus may have as a way to prevent a woman from seeking an abortion.
“It shouldn’t be the policy for the state of Texas to excuse doctors from lying to their patients,” says Blake Rocap, policy advisor for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, in his testimony before the committee. “That’s what this bill does.”
Raising a child with severe disabilities is a huge financial and emotional undertaking. Women, especially those from low-income households, should have the right to make an informed decision about the costs of raising the child they are carrying instead of being deliberately misled to believe the pregnancy is healthy until the baby is born. And although they claim to care about protecting human life, most of the sponsors of SB 25 also voted against state Medicaid expansion, which would have made health insurance more affordable for low-income families.
It’s not just a woman’s right to decide to have an abortion that’s at stake here. Withholding medical information about the fetus also prevents a pregnant woman from pursuing any treatment options that may be available to help the fetus during pregnancy. Rachel Tiddle is a mom who didn’t know that her baby had severe disabilities. She testified in front of the committee that had she known, she would have tried one of several experimental options to try and save the pregnancy. Instead, her son was stillborn. “It’s not a doctor’s right to manipulate the family by lying, and it is not a doctor’s right to decide whether an experimental therapy is worth trying,” Tiddle says.
A doctor’s loyalty should be to their patient, the one that’s sitting right in front of them. Regardless of whether or not doctors would lie to patients, it’s monstrous of Texas lawmakers to think it’s acceptable for a doctor to keep secrets from someone about their own body. Yet SB 25 is another backdoor attempt by the Texas government to take control over one of the most personal and fundamental rights for a woman — the right to decide what happens to and within her own body.