Proposed Arizona Law Allows Doctors to Withhold Medical Information to Prevent Abortions

Every week that I write about a crazy law I think, okay, this is it. This is the worst one they could possibly come up with. And each week I am wrong. Last week’s Wisconsin bill left me just about speechless, but this week’s proposed law in Arizona makes me physically ill.

The bill has already passed the Arizona state Senate and is on its way to the House of Representatives, which, as a heavily Republican group, is very likely to pass. Which personally I find ironic since this is the very opposite of smaller government, but that’s neither here nor there.

The law is to target “wrongful birth” malpractice law suits, which are filed when a child is born with a severe disability and the parents believe the child would be better off not having been born. The settlements tend to be large because they’re meant to provide money for a lifetime of medical care of the child and in a way, I guess I see that we want to protect doctors from these huge law suits, but the way that Arizona (and get this, NINE other states that already have these laws) have gone about it is appalling to me.

The proposed law says that a doctor who is morally opposed to abortion may withhold medical information about a developing baby if he or she believes it could cause the mother to have an abortion. Let me just let you read that again. A doctor can just not tell you that your child has a birth defect or a lifelong disability if he or she doesn’t want you to have an abortion.

If you don’t want to scream about this, then I cannot understand you.

Let’s change things up. Let’s say the circumstances were flipped. What if there was a law that let doctors not tell you that you had a life-threatening hemorrhage that could be fixed with a blood transfusion because they belonged to a religion that was opposed to transfusions? We would be outraged, but because the issue is potential abortion, suddenly it’s okay to have others impose their religious and moral values on others.

I personally find this law especially horrific in light of what I’ve seen in my time working in the NICU for the past several months. The difference between a family who knows about a birth defect in advance and is prepared to deal with it and one who doesn’t know until the child is born is tremendous. There are preparations, both in terms of products that need to be purchased and mental preparations for what’s about to happen, that must be made for some of these birth defects and to deprive families of the time to prepare, simply because a doctor is opposed to abortion, is appalling to me.

The law already exists in Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Utah and is being proposed in Arizona and Kansas, so I would suggest that if you live in these states you have a serious conversation with your OB to make sure that you and he/she have the same values and that you aren’t in danger of being surprised at the birth of your child. And if you don’t live in these states, make sure your lawmakers know that you do not support legislation that prevents parents from being able to make informed decisions and preparations about their children.

Update: After further investigation, I’ve learned that the intention of the law was not as I understood it, nor as my source had listed it. If you’d like to read the full content of the law, scroll down in the comments. Though, it is worth noting that while the law is not created to protect doctors who lie or withhold information, it appears to have done just that in Pennsylvania some 20 years ago. It’s clear that this issue is incredibly complicated and that people on both sides are exceedingly passionate, so I’m just going to leave it at this. Please know that I will do better in the future to vet my sources and investigate my topics personally instead of trusting other news sites to have done thorough background investigations. That was my mistake and one I won’t make again soon.

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