Woman denied abortion for fetus developing without skull

A pregnant Louisiana woman said she was denied an abortion despite the fact that her fetus is developing without a skull because it still has detectable cardiac activity.

Nancy Davis was 10 weeks into her pregnancy when the fetus she’s carrying was diagnosed with acrania, a rare and fatal condition which prevents the baby’s skull from forming. Doctors at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge told her that her child would only live for a short period of time — anywhere from minutes to days — if she completed her pregnancy and urged her to get an abortion, though they would not perform the procedure themselves.

“They told me that I should terminate the pregnancy,” Davis said. “Because of the state of Louisiana’s abortion ban they cannot perform the procedure. Basically, they said I had to carry my baby to bury my baby. They seemed confused about the law and afraid of what would happen to them if they perform a criminal abortion, according to the law.”

Louisiana law currently bans all abortions except when there is substantial risk of death or impairment to the woman as well as in the case of “medically futile” pregnancies. It went into effect earlier this summer, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, erasing a reproductive right that has been in place for decades.

If a doctor performs an illegal abortion in Louisiana, they could face up to 15 years in prison.

About a dozen states have since implemented abortion bans at all stages of pregnancy, with some allowing for limited exceptions including in instances of rape or incest as well as when the pregnant woman’s life at risk.

“Ms. Davis was among the first women to be caught in the crosshairs of confusion due to Louisiana’s rush to restrict abortion, but she will hardly be the last,” Ben Crump, an attorney for Davis, said during a news conference held on the state’s Capitol steps Friday.

He also called Davis’ treatment “inhumane” and said Louisiana has put her and her family through “mental anguish.”

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Davis, who is already a mother, plans to travel out of state to get an abortion. By the time she undergoes the procedure it’ll be nearly two months since she made the decision to terminate.

“I want you to imagine what it’s been like to continue this pregnancy for another six weeks after this diagnosis,” she said. “This is not fair to me and it should not happen to any other woman.”

Davis has also called on lawmakers to hold a special session to clarify the legislation. Their next regular session is scheduled for April 2023.

“The law is clear as mud,” Crump said.

“Every women’s situation is different and subject to interpretation, so of course medical professionals don’t want to risk prison or to have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of fines for making the wrong call.”

Sen. Katrina Jackson, the law’s author, and several other legislators have since said that Davis qualifies for an abortion and that the hospital “grossly misinterpreted” the statute.

With News Wire Services

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