Iowa Supreme Court's wrongful death ruling ignites abortion debate

Published: Jun. 7, 2017 at 5:54 PM CDT
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Parents in Iowa can sue for wrongful birth. That first of its kind ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court is stirring up emotions in the abortion debate.

Parents in Lee County filed a lawsuit against a Fort Madison hospital and with a gynecologist clinic. They say doctors failed to warn them about abnormalities on their child's ultrasound. Those abnormalities that might have prompted the parents to get an abortion.

In a 6 to 1 vote last week, the Supreme Court ruled with the parents saying can sue medical providers.

The case centers on a now 6 year old boy who was born with cerebral palsy and other disabilities that make it unlikely he'll ever walk or talk.

Proponents of the ruling say the wrongful birth amounts to medical malpractice. But critics say the ruling finds that some kids are better off dead.

Attorney Art Gilloon, is member of Dubuque County Right to Life board of directors.He's shocked and saddened by the Iowa Supreme Court ruling.

"The Iowa Supreme Court has said, a really happy, good baby who is now 6 years old can be killed before they are born if they're disabled. That's a really bad message," said Gilloon.

According to court documents, the boy's mother Pamela Plowman says, after a 22 week ultrasound doctors said "everything was fine" even though doctors noticed the baby's head was abnormally small.

Plowman told the court, if she'd known of those abnormalities, she would have terminated her pregnancy. She cited the high medical costs and quality of life for her child.

Former Planned Parenthood board member and pro-choice activist, Ann Straley says the Supreme Court got this right because Plowman was denied her right to make an informed decision.

"This poor woman wasn't notified that there were abnormalities that should have been followed up on. This is negligence of the medical providers," said Straley.

But in a 1984 Iowa Supreme Court case, after a baby survived a botched abortion, the court ruled a parent cannot sue for the wrongful birth of a healthy baby.

"The only difference between that case and what they decided in this Plowman case is that if the baby is disabled you should have the right to sue," said Gilloon.

Gilloon believes the court's ruling will have a rippling effect.

"It slaps every disabled person, every Iowan who is disabled, in the face. It's a slap in the face to every disability rights organization to say that an unhealthy or disabled child born is better off dead,” said Gilloon.