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 Institute, The 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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