South Carolina Supreme Court Rejects "Wrongful Life" Abortion Lawsuit

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 21, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Carolina Supreme Court Rejects "Wrongful Life" Abortion Lawsuit Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 21, 2004

Columbia, SC ( — The South Carolina Supreme Court has rejected a "wrongful life" lawsuit by a woman who claims doctors did not properly inform her of her son’s disabilities, which would have allowed her an opportunity to have an abortion instead of carrying the pregnancy to term.

Jennie Willis contends she would have had an abortion if her doctors would have let her know that her son would be born with parts of his brain missing.

Her doctor, Dr. Donald Wu, informed Willis of her 8-year-old son Thomas ‘s condition two weeks before a the 24 week legal limit for obtaining an abortion under state law.

Willis’ attorney, Fayrell Furr, said Thomas has enough of a brain to be able to stay alive, but not enough to ever recognize his mother. His physical and mental abilities have not developed since infancy.

Willis alleged that "there are times when it is better that a child not be born" and that the "wrongful life" action "should be recognized in a world where people may prepare ‘living wills’ rejecting medical care in certain circumstances."

Writing for a unanimous state Supreme Court, Associate Justice E.C. Burnett said the court finds "untenable" the argument that "a child who already has been born should have the chance to prove it would have been better if he had never been born at all."

"We embrace the reasoning espoused by a majority of courts rejecting a wrongful life cause of action," Justice Burnett wrote. The court "conclude[s] that being born with a naturally occurring defect or impairment does not constitute a legally cognizable injury in such an

Pro-life groups applauded the decision and say wrongful life lawsuits allow discrimination against the physically or mentally disabled.

Wayne Cockfield of South Carolina Citizens for Life is a double amputee. He praised the court for preventing "a legal ‘values test’ for unborn children."

"If this suit had been successful, the result would be a wholesale search-and-destroy imperative against unborn children with disabilities," Cockfield said.

Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, hailed the decision saying, "That the state recognizes the intrinsic value of everyone who is born in South Carolina is a credit to the court."

With the decision, South Carolina joins 27 other states that have rejected so-called "wrongful life" lawsuits. Three states, California, New Jersey, and Washington, allow such litigation

Related web sites:
South Carolina Supreme Court opinion –