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States pass bills allowing doctors to withhold information from pregnant patients

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Senior Editor

In Arizona, Republican senators have passed a bill that would allow doctors to withhold important medical information from their pregnant patients. The legislation is aimed at reducing so-called “wrongful birth” lawsuits by making it legal for doctors not to tell a pregnant patient that she, or her baby, is facing a potentially life-threatening issue. 

Another “wrongful birth” bill under consideration in Kansas, though, takes the things even farther: In order to prevent women from choosing to end a pregnancy if the fetus has life-threatening medical issues, the Kansas bill allows doctors to lie outright if they discover during routine screenings that a pregnant patient has a medical condition that could affect her or her unborn child, The Daily Beast reports

Whatever happened to “First, do no harm”? 

The Arizona bill (SB 1359), which would protect doctors if they accidentally neglect to warn patients about potential birth defects, is sponsored by Republican state Senator Nancy Barton, who said that she’s backing the law in order to stop parents from blaming doctors if their child is born with a disability. The bill was proposed to Arizona lawmakers by the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative advocacy group with a strong anti-abortion stance

Center for Arizona Policy president Cathi Herrod told the Claims Journal that the bill counters the idea that “the life of a disabled child is worth less than the life of a healthy child.” 

“Public policy should reflect in Arizona that no child’s life is a wrongful life,” Herrod said. 

The bill passed 20 to 9 on Tuesday, and now goes to the state’s House of Representatives, where it’s already facing opposition from Democrats. 

“I cannot think of a time that it is right to withhold information from a patient that would cause them pain or death,” Arizona Democratic Representative Matt Heinz, who is a doctor, told The Huffington Post. “That is not consistent with the Hippocratic Oath.” 

But Arizona isn’t the first state to pass a law like this — in fact, if Republican Governor Jan Brewer signs it, the state would be the ninth. Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Utah already have “wrongful birth” laws on the books. 

The Kansas bill, sponsored by Republican state Representative Lance Kinzer, doesn’t pretend to be anything other than anti-abortion legislation. Among other things, it proposes eliminating tax credits for abortion providers and tax deductions for private health insurance plans that cover abortion services, eliminating a woman’s ability to sue for malpractice her health or her child’s was permanently damaged because her doctor deliberately withheld critical information, and requires that women be told that abortion increases their risk of breast cancer, even though such a link has been debunked by The National Cancer InstituteThe American Cancer Society, and other medical groups. There are no exemptions for women who have been sexually assaulted or whose lives are at risk. If the bill passes in the state Senate, Republican Governor Sam Brownback has said that he would sign it. 

Opponents are most concerned over the fact that the bill would allow a doctor who opposes abortion to lie to patients about the results of blood tests, amniocentesis, genetic testing, or ultrasounds so that the patient is not informed about factors that could lead them to end their pregnancies. “It’s explicitly about preventing women from getting the information that they need to make their own personal and private decisions,” Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, told The Daily Beast. 

“It is a matter of life and death,” State Representative Sean Gatewood told The Huffington Post. “I don’t know what these people are thinking or if they’re thinking.” 




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32 responses to “States pass bills allowing doctors to withhold information from pregnant patients

  1. Bruce Hampton March 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    ******ATTENTION POSTERS*****

    We understand that this is a sensitive topic and will allow a heated debate, however, name calling will not be tolerated on the comment section. You can use “colorful language” to express your personal anger but do not call anyone names or I will ban you from this blog.


    Bruce Hampton

    • jeffrodh May 18, 2012 at 7:00 pm

      Many of the arguments made in the article are silly, although the main thrust, that patients should not be lied to, is right on.

      “First do no harm” applies to all human life, whether born or unborn. To claim a ‘right’ to abortion is to lay claim to something that was never and will never be yours. Not a single person on this planet has any ‘right’ to murder a child. That the child has not left the womb is a difference of degree, not of kind. And finally, if a government sanction for the murder of children is enough to soothe your conscience, I would suggest taking a good long look at your heart.

      This cultural idea that freedom only exists when each individual has complete autonomy is a call to anarchy, and is false. Society benefits the most when each individual does what is best for both themselves and the society, not when each individual acts purely out of self interest. If you’re faced with such a decision, consider the beautiful person such a child may be, whether disabled or unwanted.

      That said, my heart goes out to all women who are in a situation where they would consider such an act, and even more so to those who have carried it out. No judgement here, just attempts to understand and love.

      Some science, simply FYI: By the time most women know that they are pregnant, the child’s organs have formed, there is a heartbeat and unique fingerprints. Something else to consider, how many disabled people have had an enormous positive impact on the world?

      Finally, the politics. I’m a conservative, and IMHO, the federal government has no call to take a stance one way or the other on these kind of issues. Let the states and local governments decide. If the politicians, or anyone else is really disturbed by these trends (and why wouldn’t they be?), perhaps they should live out their morality and/or their faith and personally interact/help women in these situations, offer to adopt the children, etcetera.

      Lots of love, and God bless.

    • Kathy Lulejian May 20, 2012 at 2:42 am

      My grandson was born with a potentially life threatening heart defect. he had 3/4 of a heart. no way for the blood to get to the lungs. Had it not been for the pediatrician on duty he would have died. This had nothing to do with my daughter’s ob doc. Her U/S showed a healthy 4 chamber heart. She had 4 done. Each had the same results. To Sue the radiology place that mis read the results she would have to have sued the OBGYN too. And the hospital and their staff that saved his life. Eventually they could have been separated from the case but not before causeing them harm. She opted not to sue. She believed that too many others would have been harmed had she sued. However had she had this info he could have been born in a high risk setting and been ready for what was to come. Withholding info like this is irresponsible at best, my thought is that it is criminal to withhold medical info because you are afraid of the woman opting for an abortion. That is not the Dr’s call.

  2. Rachel M. May 18, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    It’s appalling to know that people actually think that way.

  3. lilithkmac May 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Reblogged this on 5degreesofinspiration and commented:
    Yet another astonishing case of irresponsible politicians dabbling in the health and welfare of women. The very fact that a doctor could lie about a patient or unborn child’s health based on their personal religious beliefs goes against the Physician’s Oath which states: “I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, gender, politics, socioeconomic standing, or sexual orientation to intervene between my duty and my patient.” It also contradicts one of the main edicts of medical ethics stating “first, do no harm,” [primum non nocere] as well as the Hippocratic Oath vowing “I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.”

    The sooner citizens – man and woman alike – take a stand against such policies instead of being cowed by the pervasive attitudes that they alone have no power or that the government’s ears are deaf to their cries, the sooner politicians will realize they cannot bully American citizens into accepting this veritable witch hunt.

    Alone, we fall, united, we stand, and the government will hear us, if we remember, remember, the 5th of November…..

    • Dale May 19, 2012 at 11:44 am

      All I can say is go to the website and read the Bil. This story is misleading. The Bill is about the doctor be sued for failure to diagnose or inform the mother that a fetus was in genetic difficulty.

  4. Erika May 18, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    This is horrible and ridiculous. As the pregnant one, your choices should come first. Just because someone doesn’t agree with abortion doesn’t give anyone the right to take away others rights.

    • musings May 18, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Indeed. This is the problem with the authoritarian mind-set behind this law. It takes decision-making out of the hands of those most affected by the decisions. It sticks in there a lot of dogma which is not medical but sectarian. And it creates a priesthood in doctors which most do not seek when they enter medical school. Wouldn’t it be a shame if doctors stopped being committed primarily to the practice of medicine and changed to being moral gate-keepers or frightened into an underground where they could continue to provide care?

  5. Jennifer Matteson May 18, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    If doctors are neglecting to tell their pregnant patients about life-threatening conditions, FIRE THE DOCTORS! Do not protect them with an absurd law! When people do not do their jobs, they get fired! End of story!

  6. shavonne May 18, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    my mothers doctor withheld information about me and my mom learned far to late in her pregnancy that i was going to be born with a disability and while i don’t agree with doctors withholding information from expectant mother I’m sometimes grateful my mothers doctor did or i might not be alive today

    • Grace May 18, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      It’s all about you right Shavonne? Not about any other mother or child? Let me guess, you are okay with giving birth to a child with a disability. What if your child is born with additional disabilities and you don’t have the financial means to care for it because you weren’t warned ahead of time? You become welfare mom dependent on others because of your “choice”.

      • Ariel May 18, 2012 at 5:10 pm

        Just because a child has a disability, they shouldn’t be born? Oh man that’s a screwed up statement. I don’t agree with this bill or welfare, but your statement is completely ignorant Grace.

    • Penny Huggins May 18, 2012 at 6:39 pm

      You don’t put much faith in your mother. Disability in a child is not the only thing an expectant mother would need to know. As a patient you have the right to the best medical care the doctor can give. Anything else is shoddy caregiving and the doctor should have his license removed. With this law the doctor is not even required to make an effort to care for his patient but still gets paid, even at the cost of the life of the patient and the unborn child. This is disgraceful legislature for this country or any country.

  7. Natalie May 18, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    So, are they going to lie when the mother’s life is in jeopardy and let them both die together?

  8. matt S May 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    You have to wonder, if Republican state Senator Nancy Barton’s doctor accidentally neglected to tell her that she had cancer that would become terminal and kill her if she didn’t get treatment right away, do you think she’d want to sue him?

  9. DB May 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Okay, time for a law on the books that says children born with special needs should be considered child abuse.

  10. musings May 18, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    This is, quite simply, and by law, allowing the denial of equal protection to females who are pregnant. It could also be argued that in the case of fetuses without brain function and massive birth defects, as well as diseases which are invariably fatal in infancy, the infliction of pain upon the unborn. Whatever it poses as, it also tries to subvert the protections of Roe v. Wade, by the back door. It makes doctors into witch-doctors.

  11. sarum May 18, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Then let the doctors and the legislators be financially responsible for the disabled child’s care until death departs him or her (the disabled) from this dimension. We are reaching critical mass of too many born with problems. Fighting the corporate causes of these defects is too life threatening for them – they are just passing the buck. This is a criminal law. I am a mother of a disfunctional child – they knew when I was pregnant and no, even without this law they chose not to inform me – so we do not need this law.

  12. Pingback: Well these legislators seem to have a handle on medicine » Why Aren't You Outraged?

  13. Monica May 18, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    This is absolute bull. I dont believe in abortion but at the same time if I was pregnant and going to have a chance that my child and/or myself could be harmed or die I better be told. I would see at least two doctors for my pregnancy. Being sued would be the last of the that doctors problems.

  14. Angela Foster May 18, 2012 at 8:16 pm


  15. Lou May 18, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Will the doctors then be responsible for caring for those children who are born as a result of such lies? Or perhaps the politicians who pass these laws ought to take them in. Seems only fair.

  16. Elle May 19, 2012 at 8:10 am


  17. Elle May 19, 2012 at 8:15 am

    “Just because a child has a disability, they shouldn’t be born? Oh man that’s a screwed up statement. I don’t agree with this bill or welfare, but your statement is completely ignorant Grace.”


  18. Gregory May 19, 2012 at 10:35 am

    The doctors shouldn’t withold information. However, these mothers should be tried for killing their children. There should be a zero tolerance on abortion.

  19. AntiLieGuy May 19, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Doctors are evil and stupid. Their job is to help the elite eliminate more sheeple because of the approaching Planet X. Your entire government and everything with “authority” are all completely treasonous criminals.

  20. Skye Larkin May 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Why would anyone live in Arizona? It’s a stinking hot polluted crap hole full of insane nazis.

  21. beawrangler May 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I believe that these laws, whether designed to or not, punish women. There is so much about pregnancy that has to be taken into account before we can say with 100% certainty that abortion should not be an option. What about prenatal care? What about mental health care? What about basic health care, period?

    The fact is, so many people have limited or no access to the basics that ensure a healthy child. I am staunchly pro-choice, but that does not make me heartless. I have never been in a position to have to make this choice, or even consider it. But I am lucky, I am comfortably middle class and had a solid education. I had excellent pre- and post-natal care for myself and my children. I do not suffer from depression, have not been abused as a child, have no serious mental health issues. Others are not so lucky; they have been abused, raped, have untreated mental health problems and self medicate with drugs. In these circumstances, some women make the choice not to have a child, and they should not be misled so that they have no choice.

    There is a large spectrum of issues that can occur in utero. I have two healthy, happy children. But until I became pregnant, I had no idea what could occur. Genetic diseases and defects are a real possibility, and they vary widely in severity. A child with Down’s Syndrome is a very different situation than a child born with trisome-18. Ask yourself before you judge, what if you couldn’t afford to take care of a child with problems so severe, she wouldn’t live past 2 or 3 years at the longest? What if it would negatively impact the quality of life of your other children? What if your marriage wouldn’t survive it?

    I don’t believe that anyone who makes this decision does so lightly. This issue is fraught with enormous complexity. The thinking that leads to this legislation assumes that this choice is made for one person only, the pregnant woman, and this is patently untrue. There are often other people to consider, and sometimes those people are children themselves. Women deserve to be as informed as possible in order to make good decisions. Without that, no one wins.

  22. Peach May 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Regardless of the law, it sounds like each doctor has a choice of full disclosure or not. IF you are pregnant one that would terminate a pregnancy based on the fetus’ health, simply tell your doctor “IF there is a health condition of the fetus or a health condition that puts my life in jeopardy and I’m not informed by you, I will fire you and I will sue you regardless of the law”. Just because there is a law protecting an individual, doesn’t mean you still can’t sue them. Just the threat of a law suit should deter most physicians. Just be aware in the rare case if this happens and you follow through, you may have to pay their court costs when you lose.

    Separation of church and state people. Each person should have the right to make decisions about their own body (as long as it doesn’t endanger the safety of other people).

  23. Ben May 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    While I don’t agree with abortion, as a nurse, I’m appalled that doctors would even consider not giving full disclosure to a patient. Seems to me this is just another case of the govt thinking they know what is better for people than the person they are strangling. HELLO people, God is the ONE AND ONLY judge. If people choose to go through with abortions or keep a child, regardless of how the child was conceived, he will see what is in their hearts and provide consequences accordingly. Oh, and as far as ‘do no harm’…didn’t you get the memo, it was changed by lobbyists years ago to ‘do whatever makes the most money’.

  24. Galaxy May 22, 2012 at 12:30 am

    Who are you to take away my rights to choose, these women are people, or are you Fatalist muslims.

  25. Melanie July 24, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Well, a little confused without going to read the bill since the article says that the bill would protect a doctor if the ACCIDENTALLY … so there is nothing mentioned in the text that would allow a doctor to deliberately withhold information. In that case, better to disallow an abortion than not tell a patient. Just my thoughts (and I do not support abortion for disabled children, btw.) The article implies that doctors can just withhold info. but that’s not what the text the same article cites actually says.

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