Baton Rouge, La. (AP) — A pregnant Louisiana woman who was denied an abortion — even though her fetus has a rare and deadly condition — asked Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Legislature on Friday to call a special session to clarify the state of the state restrictions on the process.
Nancy Davis, who is 15 weeks pregnant, said she will travel out of state next week for a “medically necessary” abortion. A state law currently in effect prohibits all abortions unless there is a substantial risk of death or disability to the woman if she continues the pregnancy and in the case of “medically futile” pregnancies. Davis, 36, and abortion rights advocates for months criticized the legislation as vague and confusing.
Their concerns are echoed in many other states that, like Louisiana, passed so-called enabler laws after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision guaranteeing a constitutional right to abortion. About a dozen states currently ban abortions at all stages of pregnancy, with some allowing limited exceptions, such as in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the pregnant woman is in danger.
“Ms. Davis was one of the first women to be targeted in the confusion of Louisiana’s rush to restrict abortion, but she will hardly be the last,” Ben Crump, Davis’ attorney, said during a news conference held in The state Capitol is making strides Friday.
Ten weeks into Davis’ pregnancy, doctors at Women’s Hospital in Baton Rouge diagnosed the fetus with acrania, a rare and fatal condition in which the baby’s skull fails to form in the womb. Davis said that if she carried the pregnancy to term and gave birth, the baby would likely survive for a very short time — anywhere from several minutes to a week. Doctors advised Davis to have an abortion, but said they could not perform the procedure.
“Basically, they said I had to carry my baby to bury my baby,” Davis said. “They seemed confused about the law and afraid of what would happen to them.”
If a doctor performs an illegal abortion in Louisiana, they can face up to 15 years in prison.
In a statement last week to news outlets, spokeswoman Caroline Isemann said Woman’s Hospital was unable to comment on a specific patient, but reiterated that it is the hospital’s mission to provide the “best possible care for women” while complying with laws and policies of the state. .
Since then, the law’s author, Sen. Katrina Jackson, and other lawmakers have said that Davis qualifies for an abortion and that the hospital “grossly misinterpreted” the statute. But in a written statement signed Tuesday by Jackson and 35 others, including nine other women, they said many of them share a religious belief that “would compel us to bring this child to an end.”
Davis and her attorneys said they are not blaming the doctors, but the vagueness of the law.
“The law is as clear as mud,” said Crump. “Every woman’s situation is different and subject to interpretation, so of course medical professionals don’t want to risk jail time or having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for making the wrong call. Who would just take someone’s word for it when their freedom is at stake?” their;”
A lawsuit filed by a Shreveport abortion clinic and others has been pending since the new law went into effect. The legislation in turn has been blocked and then enforced as the lawsuit moves through the courts. The most recent decision allowed the law to be enforced. Plaintiffs challenging the ban do not deny that the state can now ban abortions. they argue that the provisions of the law are contradictory and unconstitutionally vague.
Although Davis has not filed a complaint or lawsuit, she wants Louisiana lawmakers to hold a special session to clarify the law. Their next regular meeting is scheduled for April 2023.
“Imagine how many women could be affected before (lawmakers) go back into session,” Crump said. “How much longer will the Nancy Davises have to endure mental anguish and mental cruelty before lawmakers clear up these vague and ambiguous laws.”