Bill would've barred parents from suing doctor if their baby was born with a disability
Mother at the heart of debate: "I'm so thankful"
A Texas bill that would have prevented parents from suing their doctor if their baby was born with a disability did not pass into law.
The controversial measure, dubbed the “wrongful birth” bill, had stirred outrage among abortion-rights supporters who said it could result in doctors who morally oppose abortions to lie to patients about the health of their fetuses.
The Texas Senate passed the bill in early April, but it never made it out of the House. There was still one last chance the bill could pass in a special session. However, on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced 19 priorities for the special session. The wrongful birth bill wasn’t on the list.
The issue of “wrongful birth” suits in Texas dates to a 1975 case in which the state Supreme Court sided with a mother whose doctor failed to diagnose her rubella during pregnancy, leading to the birth of a daughter who was blind, deaf and severely brain damaged.
CNN profiled the mother and daughter shortly after the Senate passed the measure. Dortha Biggs, 77, still tends to her daughter Lesli, now 48, at a group home in Texas. Their only form of communication is through touch, an almost ritualistic rubbing of hands. She has never heard her daughter speak a word. Biggs said she has often wished she’d never been born “because had I not been born, she would not have been born and suffered this.”
Biggs told CNN she was shocked and outraged her family was brought into the discussion on the Senate floor without a single lawmaker ever asking about Lesli or seeking input from her family. Infuriated, the mother penned a letter to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Brandon Creighton.
“I have stood over her bed for hundreds of nights watching her suffering,” she wrote. “If you have not experienced this heartbreak, you have no right to judge.”
Informed Tuesday evening that the bill failed, Biggs said, “I’m so thankful.”
“Right now, I’m thinking two groups of people won by this,” she said. “No. 1, I would say children who would’ve been brought into the world to just suffer; they now have the chance for that not to happen. I also think parents won because they retain the ability to make a loving decision for what they think is best for their child.”
Creighton has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Biggs pledged to keep close tabs on the legislature from now on. “I know one thing: I will check every time the Texas legislature is in session to see if another bill is presented and, if it is, I will fight it for as long as I am physically able – whether my name is brought up or not. I promise you that. That’s just kind of how I feel.”
Creighton previously told CNN that he was moved by the letter Biggs sent and that he hoped to reach out to her. “I never heard a word,” Biggs told CNN. “Not a word.”
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One person she did hear from after the CNN profile was her high school basketball coach. She hadn’t seen him or spoken to him in 61 years. He’s now in his 90s. He said he’d read about her life struggle and how she’d spent her life fighting for disabled children. He told his old ballplayer that he always knew she’d grow up to become a forceful, strong woman.
“I just wanted to tell you I’m so proud to know you,” the coach wrote.