Advocates Worry 'Wrongful Birth' Bills Could Allow Doctors To Lie to Patients

May 16, 2012 — Several states, including Arizona and Kansas, are considering bills that would ban so-called "wrongful birth" lawsuits, in which plaintiffs claim doctors failed to warn them about fetal complications that would have led them to choose an abortion, NPR's "Shots" reports. More than six states have adopted laws prohibiting the suits, according to "Shots."

Abortion-rights advocates argue that the laws allow physicians to withhold information to prevent a woman from having an abortion.

"I believe it would allow [doctors] to lie about the results of an amniocentesis or simply opt out of even performing an amniocentesis that would normally be part of standard care," Kari Ann Rinker of the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women said of the Kansas measure. She said parents need to have full information to prepare to care for a child with a disability or to decide whether to have an abortion.

Kathy Ostrowski of Kansas for Life said the bill would not allow lying or undermine parental rights. "No way do we want doctors to be lying, and in no way does this say you can lie in this one area," she said.

In Arizona, state Sen. Nancy Barto (R) sponsored a similar bill that provides an exception allowing lawsuits involving "intentional or grossly negligent acts." Barto said the legislation "sends the message that all life is worth protecting, is worth living, whether you are born with a disability or not."

Meanwhile, parents and attorneys involved in the suits said states should avoid turning medical malpractice issues into a fight over abortion rights (Lohr, "Shots," NPR, 5/15).