Wrongful Life Bill Permits Doctors to Withhold Life-Saving Information from Pregnant Women

by Project Censored

Arizona Senate Bill 1359 is a bill that effectively alters a woman’s ability to choose what is best, according to her, concerning her pregnancy and fetus. The bill claims it is solely to curb the amount of “wrongful birth”/”wrongful life” lawsuits that have popped up over the years concerning a born child’s health wherein the child ended up having some form of mental or physical development such as Downs Syndrome and had not been brought up by the doctor during OB/GYN check-ups. In the few cases detailed in the Arizona bill the parents or mother admitted that if they had known of their child’s diagnosis they would have aborted. Now the Arizona Senate has decided that these forms of lawsuits should not stand and has made it literally and completely impossible to sue a physician for not informing a woman of any fetal anomalies or defects and effectively of any risks these anomalies may pose to the woman carrying the fetus, even if the risk of her own life is at stake (as there is no amendments to this already passed bill stating a doctor has to release information should the woman’s own life and well-being be at risk).

Student Researcher: Ashley Smith, Indian River State College

Barto, Nancy. “SB 1359 – Civil Liability; Wrongful Life; Birth.” Center for Arizona Policy. Jan. 2012. Web. 8 Mar. 2012. http://blog.azpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/f12-13-WrongfulLife.pdf

Foster, Stephen D. “Arizona Senate Passes Bill Allowing Doctors To Not Inform Women Of Prenatal Issues To Prevent Abortions.” Addicting Info. 2012. Web. 08 Mar. 2012. <http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/03/07/arizona-senate-passes-bill-allowing-doctors-to-not-inform-women-of-prenatal-issues-to-prevent-abortions/>.

Faculty Instructor: Elliot Cohen, Ph.D, Indian River State College


            Since the Republicans took over the GOP there has been bill after bill proposed in order to deter and limit a woman’s right to bodily integrity and both the ability of men and women to seek proper medical health care from organizations such as Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics. Thanks to the effort of Planned Parenthood a great deal of these bills have been brought into the public eye (and many even squashed in their tracks due to public outcry), but every so often a bill will pass under the radar of even these tough and diligent men and women. Recently a bill has been passed in Arizona that places pregnant women in severe jeopardy—it very well will cost the lives of many women and break apart a great deal of families. The bill in question is Senate Bill 1359 of Arizona. The bill effectively states that a pregnant woman no longer has the right to know if her pregnancy will endanger her well-being, and what is worse is that the physician who is overseeing her pregnancy and development cannot be sued even when withholding the information does indeed lead to the woman’s death. What moral implications does this have for not only women, but for all United States citizens?

A great many of bills have been proposed by the Republican GOP, many of them centering around a person’s right to sexual health—particularly that of a woman’s right to sexual health and independence. It is no secret that woman have been singled out in this regard, especially when it comes to the woman’s ability to abort a pregnancy she does not feel capable and/or willing to handle. On the 7th of March a bill was passed in the state of Arizona that limit’s a woman’s ability to choose what to do with her body in such a deceptive and surprising way—they have made it legal for physicians to withhold life-saving information from the pregnant woman in the event she may elect to an abortion rather than proceed with the pregnancy. The bill’s drafter and spear header claims that this bill was drafted due to the “number of lawsuits…brought in recent years in which the patients sue their doctors and argue that they would have aborted their child if the doctor correctly diagnosed a birth defect…while in utero” (SB 1359, 1). The bill states point blank it is a “legislative policy of favoring childbirth over abortion” (SB 1359, 2), which invades a woman’s right to privacy and to choose what would be best for her, her child, and her family as well as giving leeway for doctors to force their views onto these families under the guise of “intrinsic value of human life” (SB 1359, 2). The bill does not say in black and white the that doctor has the ability to keep this information from the mother, but if the physician did so, the surviving family and/or mother have no claim to sue the physician for malpractice.  This has already occurred in cases where the physician decided not to inform the mother that her pregnancy was ectopic, that the child would have Downs Syndrome, and that she had a higher than average risk of bleeding out due to pregnancy-related anemia–solely because the physician weighed “saving the life of the unborn” over the woman’s right to bodily autonomy and integrity.

It must be asked what sort of ethical implications this has for people’s lives. Should it be alright for a doctor to withhold information about the fetus even if the mother might die? Should it be okay for someone other than the woman to make the decision on what the woman can do with her own body, even if it means the death of a fetus that is utilizing her body? As Foster said in his article “hiding critical information is irresponsible, unconscionable, and risks lives,” and no one should be allowed to force their moral convictions on another person when the health  of that person is involved; especially not those who are in a position of power such as a doctor.