After the Supreme Court struck down roe v. calf In June, Louisiana lawmakers moved to ban abortion statewide. On Friday, after months of legal challenges, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the ban, confirming it as law.
Louisiana abortion ban makes no exceptions for rape or incest, but allows termination of a fetus with a condition “incompatible with the maintenance of life after birth.” Earlier this month, the Louisiana Department of Health released a ready of 24 specific conditions under which abortion would be permitted, plus a loosely defined 25th, for instances of a “profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal abnormality existing in the fetus that is incompatible with the maintenance of life after birth in reasonable medical judgment certified by two physicians licensed to practice in the state of Louisiana.
This final item on the list should have allowed the hospital to perform an abortion for Davis, health department spokeswoman Michelle McCalope confirmed in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
“This is an evolving document, and [the Louisiana Department of Health] has always said the list could not encompass every possible diagnosis that would meet the definition of ‘medically futile,'” McCalope said. Other conditions that would allow rescission.”
A final list of conditions will include acrania, McCalope added.
State Sen. Katrina Jackson, an anti-abortion Democrat who sponsored the bill that made abortion illegal, confirmed to WAFB that Davis should have been allowed to terminate her pregnancy under the law, explaining that the final condition listed is intended to be “a general list of what two doctors consider to be a medically futile pregnancy.”
“This woman is not seeking an abortion … This woman is seeking a medical procedure for a pregnancy that is not viable outside the womb,” Jackson said, even though the procedure he described is, in fact, an abortion.
A spokesperson for Baton Rouge Hospital for Women told BuzzFeed News in a statement that they couldn’t comment on specific patient information, but said a “medically unhelpful diagnosis” is “extremely complex.”
“Each patient is unique. In the absence of additional guidance, we look at each patient’s individual circumstances and how to continue to comply with all current state laws to the best of our ability,” spokeswoman Caroline Isemann said. “While we understand that the specific diagnosis you are referencing would fall under the medically unhelpful exceptions provided by LDH, the laws addressing treatment methods are much more complex and seemingly contradictory.
“Our team has been working diligently to gain clarity on what treatment and care we can provide our patients with medically unhelpful diagnoses while remaining in compliance with all state laws.”
Louisiana is just one of many US states that have passed laws banning abortion since roe v. calf was struck down, and it’s not the only place where lack of clarity in legislation has put pregnant women at risk.
In June, a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant after being raped had to travel from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost legally asserted that she would have been able to have an abortion in her home state, but the law leaves that unclear and largely leaves it to the discretion of doctors.
Ill-defined laws like these can deter health care workers from performing abortions due to the risk of criminal charges they may face as a result.
“We hear from our doctors on the ground at all times of the day and night,” said Molly Meegan, chief legal officer for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, he told NPR. “They are afraid, they are in an impossible situation and they do not know how to define laws that are happening minute by minute.”