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Salmon is OK with doctors lying

Two types of colorimetric tests screen for the presence of blood in this 2013 file photo. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Janesville Republican Sandy Salmon wants to reverse a court ruling that requires doctors and other medical professionals to tell pregnant parents the truth.

As a guest columnist on the Caffeinated Thoughts blog, state Rep. Salmon said she plans to introduce a bill that will prohibit “wrongful birth” lawsuits in the Hawkeye State, effectively clearing the way for health care professionals to withhold vital fetal health information from pregnant women and their partners.

“Wrongful birth” cases, as I’ve written before, involve pregnancies in which physicians or other medical professionals have access to test results, not disclosed to parents, indicating the child will face severe disabilities. In the case decided by the Iowa Supreme Court, for instance, abnormalities discovered during an ultrasound were not discussed. The parents were instead led to believe “everything was fine” with the pregnancy, and recommended follow-up testing was never completed.

At birth, the child was diagnosed with severe cognitive defects — a medical condition requiring lifelong oversight and intervention. The child, now around 6 years old, does not speak or walk, and is never expected to do so.

A key legal component to the case was the parents’ claim that, had they known, they would have terminated the pregnancy. And despite Salmon’s opining about judicial overreach, this also is clearly a key component of her desire to block parents’ ability to know the truth.

Restrictions on women’s health made under the guise of limiting access to abortion were a large focus of the last legislative session and, based on Salmon’s column, Iowans can expect to endure more posturing and doublespeak when lawmakers return in January. Even so, lawmakers shouldn’t undermine previous stances on parents’ right to know.

When legislators voted to increase waiting periods for women seeking abortions and require offers of ultrasounds, debate focused on the woman’s need for information, or informed consent. The Supreme Court decision regarding wrongful birth lawsuits hinged on that same goal. It was an acknowledgment that people seeking medical care, including pregnant women, rely on accurate information to make informed decisions — and that any forthcoming decision is the parents’ to make.

Other laws enacted last spring by Salmon and Iowa’s GOP majority already have narrowed the window in which women have authority to make health care decisions. They shouldn’t further hinder women’s ability to care for themselves and their families by allowing health care professionals to obscure vital medical information.

Not all parents who confront high-risk pregnancies, children with severe disabilities or fetal anomalies incompatible with life choose abortion. But all parents benefit from hearing unfiltered facts about their pregnancies. Information is necessary to plan high-risk labor and delivery, to prepare older siblings and other family members, and to ready a home with medically necessary equipment.

Regardless of what parents choose to do with this medical information, the state should not be in the business of keeping parents in the dark.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 339-3144, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com