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Texas' 'wrongful birth' bill could allow doctors to lie to pregnant women about fetal abnormalities

Texas lawmakers have advanced a bill that would functionally allow doctors to lie to pregnant women about fetal abnormalities if they feel the truth might lead to an abortion, The Washington Post reports. The bill, which a state Senate committee passed unanimously last week, eliminates "wrongful birth" as a cause for legal action; under the "wrongful birth" rule, parents of disabled children could sue their doctor for not informing them of the unborn child's complications before birth.

Supporters say the law would protect the rights of medical professionals and unborn disabled children: "We believe that a lawsuit that begins as its premise that 'we should've had the opportunity to kill our disabled child' sends a terrible message to those disabled children in Texas," said Jennifer Allmon, executive director for the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.

Opponents say the law would allow doctors to withhold information from pregnant women with impunity, allowing them to impose their personal religious beliefs on their patients: "Eliminating the wrongful birth claim is an unreasonable restriction on the constitutional right of a woman, in consultation with her physician and family members, to make an informed decision about whether or not to have an abortion," said Margaret Johnson, a representative of the Texas League of Women Voters. Other critics of the new bill insist knowledge of a fetal abnormality allows parents to pursue prenatal treatment or financially prepare for the costs of raising a disabled child.

The law will now go on to the full state Senate for a vote. Nine states currently ban wrongful birth lawsuits, The Dallas Morning News reports, and in Texas, such suits are "rare, even nonexistent."