GOP Pro-Life Initiative Advances; Bans Wrongful Birth Lawsuits

Feb 15, 2018

A bill to protect doctors who do not provide patients with diagnostic information that could prompt some to seek an abortion has advanced in the Iowa House.

House Republicans are focusing on the so-called wrongful birth bill as a pro-life initiative this year. 

“It’s something the caucus would like to address,” said House Speaker Linda Upmeyer.  

We want to make sure we're protecting physicians. -Speaker Linda Upmeyer

Under the bill, a woman would not be able to sue a doctor for withholding information about fetal abnormalities.  

“We want to make sure we’re protecting physicians in those circumstances,” Upmeyer said. “If there was a medical malpractice claim or something that’s separate from this issue.”  

The legislation is a response to an Iowa Supreme Court ruling last year.

In a 6-1 ruling, the court cleared the way for a southeast Iowa woman to sue her doctors. The case involved a child born with cerebral palsy. The parents allege doctors should have informed them of tests indicating abnormalities.

The woman said the information would have led her to have an abortion.

We certainly deserve to have the information to make our health care decisions. -Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell

"The right to sue for wrongful birth belongs to parents who were denied the opportunity to make an informed choice whether to lawfully terminate a pregnancy in Iowa," Justice Thomas Waterman wrote in the ruling.

The court also said most states allow so-called wrongful birth suits, though 12 states ban them. The legislature is free to enact such legislation, the decision said.

"In both the majority and dissenting opinion, the Courts challenged the Legislature to address this decision," said Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley).    "That is what the Legislature is doing.”

The House Human Resources Committee approved the legislation on a party-line vote.

“Whether you disagree with what decision that woman may make or not we certainly deserve to have the information to make our health care decisions,” said Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames).

This story was edited at 4:38 p.m. to add comment from Rep. Windschitl

Follow Joyce Russell on twitter:   @russell_ipr