This Texas Pregnancy Bill is Absolutely Terrible

by Elizabeth Strassner
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Another day, another poorly-considered anti-choice bill meandering through state legislatures. On Tuesday, Texas' Senate Committee on State Affairs passed the anti-choice Senate Bill 25. The legislation, which passed unanimously in committee, is a new, insidious way to mislead women on abortion. It would prohibit medical malpractice lawsuits on the basis of "wrongful birth," meaning that, according to critics of the bill, parents could no longer sue health care providers for neglecting to warn and counsel them if a fetus would be disabled.

Simply put, Senate Bill 25 would enable doctors to lie to their patients if a fetus showed signs of disability. In a tweet shared by Texas Planned Parenthood, a doctor testifying against the legislation stated, "It is not the doctor's right to manipulate the parents by lying. ...This bill is wrong."

Many reproductive rights activists have expressed concern that doctors in Texas could be protected for withholding critical information from their patients in order to manipulate that patient into a certain course of action. It would seem that lying to a pregnant woman (yes, even lying by omission) about the health of her fetus is a violation of doctor-patient trust, which is a critical component of successful medical treatment. Imagine carrying a child and not being able to trust your doctor to be honest with you about the health of that pregnancy. The entire pregnancy would be fraught with unnecessary stress and worry.

The bill ostensibly exists so that doctors can prevent their patients from electing to terminate a pregnancy on the basis of severe disability. However, it ignores the fact that parents who wanted to continue the pregnancy would also want to know if their child has a significant disability.

To me, common sense is absent from this legislation. Expectant parents who find out that their child will be severely disabled will need to prepare differently in certain ways. They might want to set up their nursery differently, make different plans for taking time off from work to care for the child, or call in relatives for additional help. Raising special needs children is also significantly more expensive, according to the Daily Beast; families deserve time to prepare and plan to accommodate new members with disabilities. To give severely disabled children the best shot at life, doctors should be straightforward about the medical challenges.

During a Texas Senate hearing, a woman named Rachel Tiddle shared her story of carrying a fetus that had severe abnormalities of which she was unaware. The fetus was stillborn, but Tiddle says she would have opted to try experimental therapies — that might, presumably, have saved the fetus — had she known the truth about its condition.

Allowing doctors to be protected for withholding vital information, means that Texan pregnant women and families will not be in the best possible position to protect and raise a disabled child.

The role of a doctor should be to provide medical information, counseling about available options, and medical care. American patients should not have to live in fear about whether there's something a doctor is withholding, but if Senate Bill 25 becomes law, such fear may become the norm.