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Baby, I Lied Rural Texas is still waiting for the doctors 1137 Suzanne tort reform was supposed to deliver Batchelor Mr he flood of beguiling baby photographs began cascading into mailboxes across Texas as the 2003 fall election drew near. Gracing the cover of a slick brochure, the infant smiled as a stethoscope held by an unseen but presumably kind physicianwas pressed to its chest. “Who Will Deliver Your Baby?” the mailer asked. The direct-mail pitch was one of many churned out by insurance and medical interests as they spent millions urging voters to pass Proposition 12, a constitutional amendment that would limit the amount of money patients or their survivors could recover in medical malpractice lawsuits. Swaddled in the glossy brochures was a dire threat. Greedy lawyers were besieging doctors with unwarranted lawsuits that were making malpractice insurance rates skyrocket. Doctors were fleeing Texas, leaving scores of counties with no obstetricians to deliver babies, no neurologists or orthopedic surgeons to tend to the ill. Without Proposition 12, the ad campaign warned, vast swaths of rural Texas would go begging for health care. Choosing between greedy trial lawyers and cuddly babies was no contest for most Texas voters. Proposition 12 passed. Four years later, vast swaths of rural Texas are going begging for health care. Proposition 12, and the far-reaching changes in Texas civil law that it dragged behind it, was built on a foundation of mistruths and sketchy assumptions. The number of doctors in the state was not falling, it was steadily rising, according to Texas Medical Board data. There was little statistical evidence showing that frivolous lawsuits were a significant force driving increases in malpractice premiums. Perhaps the most insidious sleight of hand employed by Proposition 12 backers was their repeated insistence that medi cal malpractice insurance rates were somehow responsible for doctor shortages in rural Texas. “Women in three out of five Texas counties do not have access to obstetricians. Imagine the hardship this creates for many pregnant women in our state;’ Gov. Rick Perry told a New York audience in October 2003 at the pro-tort-reform Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “The problem has not been a lack of compassion among our medical community, but a lack of protection from abusive lawsuits.” The campaign’s promise, that tort reform would cause doctors to begin returning to the state’s sparsely populated regions, has now been tested for four years. It has not proven to be true. Since Proposition 12 passed, insurance companiesmany grudginglyhave lowered their rates. More doctors are coming to Texas, as a recent New York Times article trumpeted. That is proof, say Proposition 12’s backers, that so-called tort reform is working. “Texas has seen a tremendous success in luring doctors to practice in our state thanks to tort reform passed in 2003;’ says Proposition 12 was built on a foundation of mistruths and sketchy assumptions. OCTOBER 19, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9