Kansas Bill Could Protect Doctors Who Lie to Prevent Abortions

Posted on March 24, 2012

Abortion rights advocates dispute so-called ‘wrongful birth’ provision in bill

LJWorld.com, March 24, 2012 by Scott Rothschild

Topeka — Could a bill that the Kansas Legislature is considering protect a doctor who lies to a pregnant woman about the condition of her unborn child in order to prevent that woman from having an abortion?

Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, and other abortion rights advocates, says that is exactly what the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would do.

The provision they are concerned about bans civil actions for a claim of so-called “wrongful life” or “wrongful birth.” They say this would legally shield a doctor who discovers a prenatal problem and withholds that information from the pregnant woman.

Dalven wrote in her blog that until she read House Bill 2598, she thought she had seen it all when it comes to proposals to restrict abortion.

“But as a mother who has been through those ultrasounds myself, the thought that my doctor could choose to withhold this information from me and take this decision away from me and my husband … well, let’s just say that it really touched a nerve,” she wrote.

But Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, who is the main sponsor of the bill, said Dalven is incorrect.

Kinzer said language in the bill is consistent with Kansas case law and was put in the legislation because “courts change and some states are reaching different conclusions.”

He said doctors who lie to patients would still be liable for medical malpractice and possible violations of standards set by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts.

He said the purpose of the provision is to limit monetary damages. Nine states have approved similar legislation, and Arizona is considering the measure, too.

Recently an Oregon couple was awarded $2.9 million. They had said they would have terminated their pregnancy if they had known their daughter would have Down syndrome. They were continually told the child would not. The parents said they sought the damages to be able to provide for their child’s care.

The “wrongful birth” issue is one of many that has caused controversy in the 68-page bill.

A major dispute deals with medical residents training as obstetrics-gynecologists at the Kansas University Medical Center. Anti-abortion legislators don’t want them being trained in abortion procedures, but KU says the training must be offered to maintain accreditation. The training is done in facilities in Colorado, KU has said.

During a recent debate in the Senate, Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said the training was necessary for emergency situations during pregnancies.

“If you don’t have doctors trained in that, you put women’s lives at risk,” she said.

The bill also requires physicians to inform women seeking an abortion about the risk of breast cancer. A large body of research says there is no link between abortion and breast cancer.

Posted in: Kansas