An ultrasound technician had just told Rachel Tittle that she was carrying a baby girl when things went terribly wrong.
She was 20 weeks pregnant at the time and couldn’t wait to become a mother. That’s when a doctor walked into her examination room and delivered the news that still haunts her six years later.
“They told me my baby’s abdomen was full of fluid — and if nothing changed very soon, it was going to stop her heart,” Tittle told The Washington Post, recalling the 2011 incident. “It was a horrible, horrible experience.”
After a series of tests, doctors told Tittle and her husband that their unborn child had contracted congenital Cytomegalovirus Infection (CMV), a common virus with few symptoms that can be passed from a mother to her developing fetus. The virus leaves some fetuses unharmed, but kills others and can result in permanent hearing loss and mental impairment for children who survive.
By the time doctors decided to try an experimental procedure on the baby to save her life, it was too late.
“There was too much damage” Tittle said. “They couldn’t find a heartbeat because she had died.”
Tittle believes that if she had discovered her child’s illness earlier in her pregnancy, the baby might have been saved. She doesn’t fault doctors for failing to notice the infection in time. But she does fear that a new bill introduced in the Texas Senate could lead to more unborn babies like her own dying unnecessarily.
Tittle told lawmakers her story when she testified recently before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs against Texas Senate Bill 25. Also known as the “wrongful birth” bill, S.B. 25 would prevent parents from suing doctors if their child is born with a disability.
Tittle says her story illustrates the importance of monitoring pregnancies carefully for signs of problems. But it has gotten tangled up in the debate over abortion.
The sponsors of the “wrongful birth” bill say such prenatal tests, which may lead women to choose abortion, can be used in lawsuits against doctors who see fetal defects and do not recommend abortion.
The bill’s author, state Sen. Brandon Creighton (R), said he introduced the legislation because he considers it “unacceptable that doctors can be penalized for embracing the sanctity of life” in Texas and noted that — as a father of two — he believes that “every child is precious.”
In announcing the proposed legislation in November, Creighton’s office said that the state senator from Conroe, near Houston, “took a stand for the unborn with a bill intended to protect doctors from legal pressure to recommend abortion. Based on legal precedent, doctors can be assigned liability for children born with abnormalities if they identified those abnormalities in utero and failed to advocate for termination, resulting in what’s termed a ‘wrongful birth.’”
The bill’s opponents say S.B. 25 would create an incentive for antiabortion doctors to avoid conducting prenatal tests, of fully informing pregnant women of the test results — or even to lie to patients who might seek an abortion after learning their fetus has abnormalities.
Tittle, who says she isn’t affiliated with either side of the abortion debate, is quick to point out that she believes her doctor acted in good faith before her unborn child died — but…