A Texas mother has spoken out against a new bill that, if passed, would prohibit women in Texas from suing their doctors for “wrongful birth.”
On March 8, 1969, Dortha Biggs gave birth to her daughter, Lesli. Two weeks into her pregnancy, Dortha came down with rubella, although it was never diagnosed. She recovered, but the disease had devastating effects on her unborn baby.
Lesli was born blind, deaf and severely brain-damaged. She is unable to communicate with people except through touch, and she has undergone more than 20 surgeries in her 48 years of life.
During an interview with CNN, Dortha, now 77, spoke about the pain she experienced as she watched her daughter suffer.
“I don’t think she’s aware that I’m her mother,” she said. “I think she is aware that I’m someone special who cares about her.”
“I would have given anything to have never been born,” Dortha admitted. “Because had I not been born, she would not have been born and suffered this.”
In 1975, Dortha sued her doctor for failing to diagnose the rubella and warn her of the potential birth defects. She says she would have had an abortion if she had known.
“I would have done the kindest thing that I could have known to have done for her, and that would have been to terminate the pregnancy,” Dortha testified in her deposition.
On Feb. 19, 1975, the Supreme Court ruled in Dortha’s favor, setting a precedent for women to sue their doctors for “wrongful birth.” Dortha settled with her doctor for around $120,000 and put the money in a special needs trust for Lesli.
Now, 42 years later, a Texas lawmaker is attempting to reverse that ruling. Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton, an attorney and 10-year veteran of the state legislature, has introduced a bill that would ban wrongful birth lawsuits.
“The presence of a disability in a child should not be grounds for a lawsuit,” Creighton said to CNN. “It sends the message that there are births that are wrongful. There are no wrongful births.”
Dortha was floored, especially since no one reached out to her to get her opinion on the proposed bill.
“It would’ve been nice if they’d just contacted me,” she said. “If you have not watched your daughter suffer pain — pain that was just hell — for days and days, you cannot even grasp the pain that you experience.”
Dortha described Creighton’s suggestion that women who sue for wrongful birth are motivated by greed as “beyond insulting.”
“Sen. Creighton has not stood where I have stood or walked in my shoes. He has not,” she told CNN. “He has not stood and watched a child suffer like this.”
When asked whether she still wishes Lesli had never been born, Dortha began to cry.
“Yes,” she said. “Because I have had the joy of loving her, but I’ve had the sorrow of watching her suffer. She has suffered so much of her life. If she could have come through the suffering and come through it and be able to enjoy her life more, I think it would have been a different issue.”
Creighton’s bill has since passed the Texas Senate and is now awaiting final approval from the House.
Dortha described the bill as ironic, pointing out that Texas legislators are opposed to almost all forms of government regulation.
“But when it comes to the most intimate decisions an individual has to make, it’s ‘Let’s put more regulations on that,'” she said.
“They don’t love my daughter. They don’t know my daughter,” she added.