Bill Would Curb Wrongful Birth Lawsuits, Wishing the Baby Was Never Born

National   |   National Right to Life   |   May 22, 2014   |   5:33PM   |   Washington, DC

In a move praised by National Right to Life, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced legislation to curb lawsuits based on legal theories that certain children should have been aborted.

The legislation, titled “Every Child Is a Blessing Act,” was introduced by second-term pro-life Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-Ms.), and assigned the number H.R. 4698.

babyzionThe bill would eliminate civil lawsuits based on the legal theories usually referred to by the terms “wrongful birth” and “wrongful life,” when such claims arise under federal law, or in state courts if they involve “health care services affecting interstate or foreign commerce.”

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, had it not been for some act of commission or omission by the person who is being sued. A “wrongful life” claim is based on the same concept, but is filed in the name of the child rather than the parent.

Such claims are not based on any allegation that a defendant actually caused the baby’s condition, but rather, that the defendant in some way failed to take actions that would have led to the abortion of the afflicted baby — for example, that a doctor failed to recommend a medical test that would have served no purpose other than to target an afflicted baby for abortion.

“No child should ever have to hear they should have never been born,” Palazzo said in a written statement. “Wrongful birth cases are a waste of judicial resources and amount to nothing more than court-sanctioned child abuse.”

In a letter to Palazzo endorsing the legislation, NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson said, “The concept that a violent pre-natal death by abortion is preferable to life with a disability is incompatible with, and corrosive to, fundamental disability-rights principles. Acceptance of such causes of action is a manifestation of a resurgent drive to promote human eugenics — an ideology that was in vogue in the early 20th century, but became discredited when zealously implemented in some states and nations. Certainly, such lawsuits cannot be reconciled with recognition that each unborn member of the human family has an intrinsic right to life.”

The bill curbs claims based on the theory that a child should have been aborted because he or she had a condition that was not caused by the defendant, such as a genetic disorder, but it would not interfere with traditional types of malpractice claims in which a defendant is held liable for negligent conduct that directly causes personal injury or death to an unborn child or to the baby’s mother.

The bill was introduced on May 21 with 32 original co-sponsors, and referred to the House Judiciary Committee. An always-current list of co-sponsors, arranged by state, can be viewed on the NRLC Legislative Action Center here.