Right now, in Texas, reproductive rights activists are beating back against a slew of anti-choice legislation that serves only to traumatize people who want or need an abortion. The latest to join that lot is Senate Bill 25, an anti-abortion bill that would protect doctors against "wrongful birth" lawsuits. Supporters of SB 25 claim that the legislation protects children with disabilities. Opponents, on the other hand, say it would give physicians a legal right to lie to expectant parents. In the end, though, Texas' "wrongful births" law dehumanizes mothers and treats them like incubators.
If passed, SB 25, which the Texas Senate Committee approved unanimously on Monday, would prohibit parents from suing their doctors if their baby is born with a disability. Anti-abortion activists believe the bill would prevent doctors from suggesting or encouraging abortion of a fetus found with abnormalities and would then protect those doctors should the child be born with abnormalities and the parents become upset or angry. But, as abortion rights activists have pointed out, SB 25 would allow a physician with a moral agenda to lie to expectant parents about their fetus without facing any repercussion. As Blake Rocap, policy adviser for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said during the bill's hearing, according to the Austin Chronicle,
It shouldn't be the policy for the state of Texas to excuse doctors from lying to their patients, but that's what this bill does.
If a parent-to-be does not know the true health of their fetus, then they would not be able to make informed decisions about their pregnancy or the future of their family. They would be robbed of bodily autonomy and instead would be treated as storage space until their child is born.
Although abortion rights are ultimately at the heart of this bill, there's so much more to unpack. SB 25 would give doctors the legal right to play God with an expectant parent's health. Not only is that unethical (and against the American Medical Association's code) — it's immoral. There are some parents-to-be who would abort a fetus if they learn it has a disability, and they should have the legal right to make that choice. But lawmakers can't work on the assumption that every parent-to-be would. There are many parents who would not. And those parents should not be kept in the dark about their fetus or what health conditions their child would have. If they don't know what to expect, then they cannot plan for their future. They cannot plan for financial obligations. They cannot plan for physical accommodations that may be needed. They cannot plan for their child's needs.
Conservative lawmakers backing SB 25 say they are protecting children with disabilities. The author of the bill, Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Republican from Conroe, said SB 25 sends the message that "the presence of a disability in a child should not be grounds for a lawsuit," according to the Texas Tribune. But this advocacy for people with disabilities is dishonest. These are the same legislators who, according to NPR, approved a $350 million cut in Medicaid reimbursement rates to therapists and providers of early childhood intervention in order to balance a billion dollars in property tax relief. The loss of multimillion dollars in funding has led to services for physical, speech, and occupational therapies to be shut down, which, unsurprisingly, hit rural families the hardest.
Texas leveraged the health needs of children with disabilities so that they could help some people pay less taxes on their homes. To believe that its "wrongful birth" bill wants to protect those children would be foolish.