Arizona has been making headlines recently for passing several controversial laws that cover a host of different social issues. However, I was shocked to discover that the law that I find most objectionable was also passed in Kansas, and has been in effect in Oklahoma for the past two years. This law was passed in Arizona in early March of this year. The law protects doctors from being sued if they withhold medical information about a pregnancy that might lead the mother to consider abortion.
The law aims to protect anti-abortion doctors from medical malpractice suits in the event that a baby is born with a serious medical condition, and the doctor failed to inform the mother during the pregnancy, for fear that the information would lead to an abortion. I find this idea utterly appalling. Whatever happened to a woman’s right to make informed medical decisions? Much of the language surrounding the new legislation requiring mandatory ultrasounds prior to getting an abortion revolved around helping the woman to making a choice with all the facts at her disposal. This new law flies directly in the face of that sentiment.
The Daily Beast published an excellent article about the new law, laying out both sides of the issue. The part that jumped out to me personally were the accounts regarding wrongful-birth cases. One case that was tried involved a doctor who never performed an ultrasound on a pregnant woman, and he baby was born without arms. The other was about a woman who learned very, very late in her pregnancy that her fetus had no brain. According to the lawyer who tried to case, “Her doctor knew the problem all along but just never told her.”
Regardless of your views on abortion, it cannot be denied that these women were wronged. Even if they had not chosen to terminate the pregnancies, should they not have at least been given some notice about the serious medical problems of their fetuses? Do they not have the right to prepare emotionally to birth a baby that might have physical deformities, mental illness, or a medical condition that would result in a few agonizing weeks of care before death? Doctors are charged to first, do no harm. The idea that they might can be protected from the law, regardless of negligence of their actions, is horrifying.