Texas Senate passes bill allowing doctors to withhold fetal health information

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Texas State Capitol Building in Austin / Photo courtesy (cc) 2007 Ed Schipul

The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs unanimously passed a bill Monday morning that would empower a doctor to decide whether to tell a pregnant woman her baby will be born with severe disabilities—especially if the doctor believes the woman will get an abortion upon finding out.

For all intents and purposes, the Texas Senate wants to make it legal for doctors to knowingly lie to women, and potentially put them in situations where they would not be prepared to emotionally or financially support children with disabilities.

Proponents of Senate Bill 25 said it was intended to protect the rights of doctors and children with disabilities. Those who opposed the bill, however, saw the measure as an attack on Texas women.

Not all who opposed the bill were arguing in favor of abortion access. In fact, one of the most powerful Senate testimonies came from Rachel Tiddle, who unknowingly carried a fetus with severe disabilities and gave birth to a stillborn baby. She said she would have attempted experimental therapies if she knew her baby’s health was in danger.

“It’s not a doctor’s right to manipulate the family by lying, and it is not  doctor’s right to decide whether an experimental therapy is worth trying,” Tiddle told the committee. “There is always chance, there is always hope.”

This is another thinly veiled attempt by a lawmaking body to strip women of their bodily autonomy and power to make health decisions for themselves. Women should not be treated as children, with doctors making decisions about “what’s best” for them. Nor should doctors be empowered to impose their moral and religious beliefs on their patients. Whether she wants to terminate the pregnancy or not, a woman has the right to know whether her baby will have a shot at survival and a normal life.

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