Re-Birthing Wrongful Birth Claims in the Age of IVF and Abortion Reforms

42 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2019 Last revised: 2 Oct 2019

See all articles by Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Institute of World Politics; International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto; Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc.

Date Written: September 19, 2019

Abstract

Claims for reproductive negligence typically fall under two rubrics. Claims by the wrongfully birthed child are almost never countenanced, while claims by the wronged parent generally are. Nevertheless, in these wrongful birth claims, usually recovery is strictly limited. While damages for rearing a child with congenital ailments may be allowed, those for raising healthy child are not. The bases for denying healthy child care are couched in policy grounds and derive from an anathema of abortion, a view of the sanctity of life and an outmoded judicial ipse dixit that child-rearing is one of life’s greatest gifts for which damages will not lie, even if such result shields a clearly negligent defendant. Here, I first point out that current vogue restricting abortion may have an adverse impact on efforts seeking to reverse this approach. I further argue that whatever gifts accrue to healthy child-rearing also may apply to non-healthy children, and the health or disability of the child should not be relevant to the outcome of these claims. And finally I propose a novel approach: broadening the damage ambit by noting that the birth of the child is not the only harm accruing to the parents. A court’s focus on only the birthed child and parents’ bliss in raising her ignores the impact of the negligence on the family unit as a whole, and on the parents as individuals and denies the individual plaintiffs their rights of autonomy, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Keywords: wrongful life, wrongful birth, abortion, IVF, relational negligence, relativistic negligence, feminist tort, autonomy, liberty, pursuit of happiness, freedom, personal freedom, public policy, sanctity of life

JEL Classification: I14, I12, K13, K32

Suggested Citation

Billauer, Barbara P., Re-Birthing Wrongful Birth Claims in the Age of IVF and Abortion Reforms (September 19, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3456822 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3456822

Barbara P. Billauer (Contact Author)

Institute of World Politics ( email )

1521 16th St NW,
Washington, DC
United States
+1 202-462-2101 (Phone)

International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto ( email )

Rua Dr. Roberto Frias
4200-464 Porto
Portugal

Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc. ( email )

1020 16th Street NW
Suite LL1
Washington, DC 20036
United States
972 54 344 6055 (Phone)

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