Rep. Palazzo Seeks to Outlaw ‘Wrongful Birth’ Lawsuits

By Abigail Wilkinson | June 19, 2014 | 1:55pm EDT


Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) (AP photo)

( -- Controversial “wrongful birth” lawsuits would be prohibited nationally under a bill  introduced in Congress by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss).

The “Every Child is a Blessing Act” (H.R. 4698), which has 49 co-sponsors in the House, would prohibit the recovery of damages in certain civil actions “based on a claim that, but for the conduct of the defendant, a child, once conceived, would not or should not have been born."

“No child should ever have to hear they should have never been born,” Palazzo said in a statement last month when he introduced the bill.

“I believe every child is a blessing, and should be treated as such. Wrongful birth cases are a waste of judicial resources and amount to nothing more than court-sanctioned child abuse,” he said.

wrongful birth suit is essentially a medical malpractice case, often against a doctor who fails to properly diagnose a disability or deformity in an unborn child, by parents who claim that if they had known of the defect, they would have aborted the child. Such lawsuits are already banned in 13 states.

"A wrongful birth claim rests on the assertion by a parent that a baby should have been aborted, due to some real or perceived deficiency - usually, a disability - and would have been aborted, but for some act by the defendant...

"The claims are not based on any allegation that a defendant actually caused a baby’s condition, but rather, that the plaintiff in some way failed to take actions that would have led to the abortion of the afflicted baby," Douglas Johnson, the National Right to Life Committee’s (NRLC) legislative director, stated in a letter supporting the bill.

“The concept that a violent pre-natal death by abortion is preferable to a life with a disability is incompatible with, and corrosive to, fundamental disability-rights principles,” Johnson said, adding that such lawsuits manifest “a resurgent drive to promote human eugenics.”

There have been several high-profile wrongful birth cases in recent years. Last December, a Washington State couple was awarded $50 million - the largest individual award in state history - after claiming a medical center and laboratory failed to detect a rare genetic defect known as “unbalanced chromosomal translocation" in their son prior to his birth.

In 2011, a Florida jury awarded another couple half of the $9 million they sought in a wrongful birth lawsuit after their son was born missing three limbs.

In 2012, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network sent a letter to the ACLU to “express disappointment” with the latter’s defense of wrongful birth lawsuits, calling them “a policy that dehumanizes people with disabilities and devalues their lives.”

“Wrongful birth and wrongful life lawsuits have as their basis the assumption that life with a disability is not worth living, which goes against the principles of the disability rights movement and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” the letter stated. “It is worth noting that very few, if any, wrongful birth or wrongful life claims have been based on a doctor’s intentional misrepresentation to a parent."

The letter also pointed out that such suits require the courts "to make decisions about which types of disabilities are 'so bad' that parents should be compensated for having the child."


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