Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) has introduced a bill to ban lawsuits brought by parents against doctors in situations where the parents would have elected to undergo an abortion had their doctors detected a child’s disabilities prior to birth.
So-called wrongful birth lawsuits have long been criticized by disability advocacy groups, many of whom argue that the bills devalue the lives of people with disabilities.
In May 2012, 11 disability advocacy groups sent a letter to the American Civil Liberties Union, criticizing its support for wrongful birth lawsuits.
“Wrongful birth and wrongful life lawsuits have as their basis the assumption that life with a disability is not worth living, which goes against the principles of the disability rights movement and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” the advocacy groups wrote in the letter. “These actions require parents to publicly reject their child because of a disability.”
The letter was sent two months after an Oregon jury awarded a Portland-based coupled $3 million, after finding that their doctors negligently failed to detect their daughter’s Down Syndrome prior to birth. The figure represents the estimated additional lifetime costs of caring for her.
The Every Child is a Blessing Act, introduced May 22, would ban all wrongful birth lawsuits nationwide. Thirteen states already ban such lawsuits.
Many pro-choice organizations support wrongful birth lawsuits, largely on the grounds that they disincentivize doctors from withholding information about fetuses in hopes of discouraging abortions.
Mark Perriello, president of American Association of People with Disabilities, argues that the debate regarding wrongful birth lawsuits should remain separate from the abortion debate.
“My experience is that this issue has been hyper-partisan wrapped up in the abortion debate,” Perriello told The Blaze. “People with disabilities do not see eye to eye with folks in the progressive community on this. But we will push to end wrongful birth lawsuits. Unfortunately, it is a partisan matter.”