Commentary: Senate Bill 25 won’t help women and children


Texas Senate Bill 25, currently being sent to the House, is a horrible policy rooted in good intentions. SB 25 prevents parents from suing their physician if their child is born with abnormalities or severe health conditions — even if those are discovered during the pregnancy and hidden from the parents.

As it is currently on the books, parents can file a “wrongful birth” claim against their doctor if they can make the case that they were not properly warned about severe health conditions. In legal terms, “wrongful birth” would no longer be a cause of action in malpractice suits.

The concept is clear: Given disproportionately high abortion rates for fetuses with abnormalities and disabilities — such as Down syndrome — some physicians and Texas lawmakers are attempting to curb that trend. If you simply hide medical knowledge about severe health conditions, then parents are less likely to terminate the pregnancy — or so the thought goes.

Although these conditions — and subsequent lawsuits — occur rarely, it’s worth considering whether this will improve medical care or serve as a veiled measure to restrict and reduce abortion. I find it horribly sad to watch the Down syndrome population decline rapidly as expectant parents choose abortion instead of raising a child with unique needs — but this bill isn’t the way to change that cultural problem.

State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), who authored the bill, argues that SB 25, “does not permit a physician to lie… (or) decrease a physician’s standards of care or responsibilities, period.”

On the other hand, spokespeople for the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws beg to differ. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle: Although this doesn’t exempt doctors from potentially having their medical licensing stripped away if they willfully mislead patients, it certainly muddles their incentives. If this bill passes, doctors will have less incentive to provide full medical disclosure, as the legal stakes are lower for them.

Even from an anti-abortion perspective that mourns the loss of so many children with disabilities from our society, this isn’t a good idea. The consequences are glaringly obvious: With less knowledge comes less ability to prepare. Having a child with a disability or severe medical issue certainly requires great emotional strength, increased attention, specific knowledge and a great deal of financial planning. Early detection of abnormalities can help parents become more prepared to take on the unique challenges that will persist throughout their child’s life. To deny them the ability to prepare as part of a political ploy is incredibly shortsighted.

The way conservative activists have been fighting against abortion has reaped few rewards. We fixate on defunding Planned Parenthood, an organization that serves millions of people annually — many of them being Medicaid recipients and low-income earners who might not be able to find comparable health care elsewhere. We refuse to champion over-the-counter contraceptive access as a smart preventative measure — with the exception of people like Carly Fiorina.

Compared to Planned Parenthood’s brilliant marketing tactics — Care. No Matter What. — and vast political machine, we’re not going to win hearts and minds as we’ve become more focused on restricting abortion and less focused on eliminating the situations that lead to it. Thankfully, some conservatives have begun to realize that different approaches might yield better results.

For those who want truly anti-abortion policy, SB 25 is a bad approach. If we actually care about helping disabled children have the best possible quality of life, their parents need full information and physicians need to foster healthy, honest dialogue where patients don’t have to worry about individual morality getting in the way of medical care. Incentivizing information-withholding in the medical industry is a ludicrous idea. And worse: This doesn’t help children in need have the best possible chance at success.

I desperately hope Texas conservatives will pursue policies that actually reduce unintended pregnancies, help families prepare for challenging situations and change the way we look at abortion without manipulating physician incentives.

Wolfe is managing editor of Young Voices, an op-ed writing organization based in Washington, D.C. She lives in Austin, where she writes about criminal justice, sex policy and libertarian ideas.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

‘Betty Before X’ tells story of civil rights leader Betty Shabazz’s youth
‘Betty Before X’ tells story of civil rights leader Betty Shabazz’s youth

Imagine trying to write about your mother when she was a kid. Where would you start? What details would you include? To write “Betty Before X,” Ilyasah Shabazz had to think hard about those questions. Her mother, Betty Shabazz, was an important civil rights leader. When her husband, Malcolm X, was assassinated in 1965, Betty Shabazz continued...
Letters to the editor: Feb. 24, 2018

Re: Feb. 18 article, “Ellsworth Kelly crowns Austin with an artistic jewel.” I read with delight the article about the new Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin.” I recognized and empathized with the opening statement, “Patches of color drip ever so slowly down the walls,” for I am the pastor of St. Austin Catholic Church...
Opinion: GOP tax reform used to be unpopular. Not anymore.

WASHINGTON — When the Republican-controlled Congress first approved its tax bill in December, most Democrats believed it would be a political loser for the GOP. Indeed, a New York Times poll found that just 37 percent of Americans approved of the plan. “To pass a bill of tax cuts and have it be so unpopular with the American people is an...
Opinion: Everybody’s better than you-know-who

Perhaps you read this week that Donald Trump has replaced James Buchanan as the worst president in the history of the United States. This was in a survey of experts in presidential politics — people who have an opinion about whether Chester A. Arthur was better than Martin Van Buren. Trump came in last, with a score of 12 out of 100. Perhaps...
Commentary: How the Texas tax pyramid stalls business growth
Commentary: How the Texas tax pyramid stalls business growth

Last month, President Trump traveled to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to deliver a message: America is once again open for business. That’s great news for Austin and the rest of the nation. Thanks to tax reform, foreign companies are giddy about expanding their operations in the United States. Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of...
More Stories