Doctors Would Be Able to Hide Key Info From Pregnant Women With This Bill

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Pregnancy is an especially vulnerable time, and moms-to-be rely on their doctors to guide them through the uncertainty with honesty and a genuine concern for their well-being. It's unthinkable that an obstetrician would ever purposefully withhold crucial medical information from a patient, but a recently passed bill in Texas will essentially allow doctors to withhold information from pregnant women about prenatal test results if they think those results might cause the parents to consider terminating the pregnancy. 

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Passed by the Texas Senate this week, Senate Bill 25 stops parents from suing doctors if their baby is born with a disability -- even if the doctor found out about the condition during routine testing and didn't tell the parents about it. It's known as the "wrongful birth" bill, and the lawmakers behind it claim it will help to "protect" children with disabilities, as well as doctors from "unnecessary lawsuits."

But critics see it as one more attack on women's rights, as the bill -- in not allowing parents to seek legal action if their babies are born with disabilities their doctors knew about and did not disclose -- basically lets anti-abortion doctors not only downplay or lie about test results, but also avoid testing in the first place if they suspect the parents might abort. And far from protecting children with disabilities, it actually makes their futures riskier.

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As Heather Busby, executive director of the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told the Huffington Post:

"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."

Seems like common sense, not to mention just plain good medicine. Incomprehensibly, however, not everyone sees it that way.

"It is unacceptable that doctors can be penalized for embracing the sanctity of life," said Senator Brandon Creighton (R-TX) in a press release when the legislation was introduced last fall. He also recently told CNN, "Senate Bill 25 will send a message that Texas does not believe that a life, in and of itself, is an injury in which parents need a damage payment."

How can a bill that potentially harms mothers and children with disabilities profess to be concerned with the sanctity of life? As with so many "pro-life" measures, this one is simply about restricting women's choices (in an outrageously deceptive and unethical manner). 

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Creighton also insists that the bill "does not permit a physician to lie" and the bill states that it does not "eliminate any duty of a physician." But by making it illegal for parents to sue if they are lied to -- and thereby removing any potential consequences if a pro-life doctor sees it as his duty to lie -- the bill does, by default, permit physicians to lie. (In the past, doctors have been sued for failing to inform parents about fetal defects, though it has happened rarely.) 
 
Yet again, we're seeing our legal system manipulated through barely legal means to serve an ominous and truly horrifying purpose: to control and exploit vulnerable people. Even the language used in the bill is ridiculously sneaky:

Sec. 71A.001. WRONGFUL BIRTH.

(a) 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.

(b) This section may not be construed to eliminate any duty of a physician or other health care practitioner under any other applicable law.

This is basically like saying, "If your doctor lies to you because he thinks you MIGHT get an abortion, then you can't do anything about it ... not that we're saying your doctor can lie, wink wink. Just that IF he does, you're basically screwed. Oh well!"  
 
 
What?! Not only is this entire thing horrifying from a women's rights standpoint, it's also horrifying from a medical standpoint. As a mother of three, I can't even wrap my head around what it would feel like to have information about your unborn child's health -- and your own body -- deliberately kept from you. Avoiding prenatal testing will surely lead to more babies dying, not less -- what about conditions requiring early intervention which could now go undetected? This bill is a terrifying breach of ethics which has the potential to completely destroy the doctor/patient relationship and put mothers and children at risk. (Oh, but tell us again about the "sanctity" of life!)
 
SB 25 still has to go to through the Texas House (but the Senate vote passing the bill was 21-9, so it clearly has supporters). Similar bills have been passed in nine other states, so the question is, how many other states will follow suit -- and what could possibly be next?
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