Texans would no longer be allowed to sue doctors for a “wrongful birth” under a bill approved unanimously by the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday. This is a cause of action based on an accusation that a doctor withheld, either willfully or through negligence, key information from parents who otherwise might have decided to terminate a pregnancy, and allows them to seek damages for the high cost of raising a child with disabilities. Bill author Senator Brandon Creighton of Conroe says suits like these send a message that some individuals aren’t worthy of being born. “There are no wrongful births,” he said. “Children born with disabilities ought to have the same rights as any able person. Their lives are just as valuable as any.” Creighton added that the fear of liability might lead some doctors to recommend abortion to avoid being sued.
Texas was the first state in the nation to develop this standard, based on a 1975 case before the state Supreme Court. A woman contracted rubella during pregnancy, and claimed she wasn’t properly diagnosed by her doctor or adequately warned about the possible fetal complications of this disease. The baby was born with severe complications requiring years of expensive surgeries and treatments, and the parents sued saying that had they known the possible complications before-hand, they would have opted for termination.
Opponents of the bill testified that eliminating this cause of action might lead to doctors opposed to abortions withholding knowledge of a fetal abnormality to prevent parents from opting for termination, but Creighton said that existing malpractice laws are adequate. “We want to make it very clear that we are not allowing doctors to choose what information to give their patients based on their personal beliefs,” he said. “This can be ensured by other means rather than this particular cause of action called wrongful birth.”
The measure now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, February 28 at 11 a.m.