A pregnant Louisiana woman who alleges she was denied an abortion despite the fetus being diagnosed with a fatal condition says other women should not have to experience her plight.
Nancy Davis said she is planning to get an abortion in another state after a Louisiana hospital allegedly chose not to perform the procedure even though her baby was diagnosed with acrania, a rare congenital disorder in which a fetus’ skull does not form inside of the womb.
Acrania is a lethal condition with death within the first week of life, according to the Fetal Medicine Foundation.
Davis’ case reflects the confusion and wrenching decisions faced by mothers and health care professionals after the June 24 US Supreme Court ruling to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.
Laws that ban abortion or severely restrict the procedure have subsequently gone into effect in about a dozen states – Louisiana among them.
“I want you to imagine what it’s been like to continue this pregnancy for another six weeks after this diagnosis,” Davis said at a news conference on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. “This is not fair to me and it should not happen to any other woman.”
Davis, who said she learned of the baby’s fatal condition 10 weeks into her pregnancy, was joined at the news conference by the baby’s father and her attorneys, including Ben Crump.
“The doctors told me that my baby would die shortly after birth,” Davis said. “They told me that I should terminate the pregnancy. 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.”
In a statement last week, a spokesperson for Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, Caroline Isemann, said the hospital cannot comment on a specific patient but said navigating an unviable pregnancy is extremely complex.
“We look at each patient’s individual circumstances and how to remain in compliance with all current state laws to the best of our ability,” Isemann told CNN.
“Even if a specific diagnosis falls under medically futile exceptions provided by (the Louisiana Department of Health), the laws addressing treatment methods are much more complex and seemingly contradictory.”
Crump called on the state to hold a special session of the Louisiana legislature to address the “public health catastrophe” created by “vague and confusing” abortion laws.
The attorney said Louisiana lawmakers have “inflicted unspeakable pain, emotional damage and physical risk” by stepping between his client and her doctors. He said other women and healthcare providers will endure a similar plight because state law has “created an environment of confusion and fear.”
Isemann told The New York Times that Louisiana’s multiple abortion bans, which use different terminology, complicate matters.
“There is currently no guidance on which law controls” the situation, she said, adding that the hospital was struggling to ensure that a doctor who terminates a pregnancy after a diagnosis of acrania was safe from prosecution.
The lawmaker who wrote the state’s abortion law, state Sen. Katrina Jackson, told CNN affiliate WAFB that Davis should have been allowed an abortion based on a list of 25 exclusive exceptions from the Louisiana Department of Health.
“This woman is seeking a medical procedure for a pregnancy that is not viable outside of the womb,” Jackson told WAFB.
It’s unclear which state Davis will go to for the abortion.
“Davis and her family are very grateful to all of those who donated to her to be able to arrange for travel,” Crump said. “By the time Ms. Davis has the procedure she needs next week, she would have carried this unsustainable pregnancy for an additional month and a half,” with “risks and emotional tolls.”
The father of the baby, Chedrick Cole, said, “From afar it’s very easy to have an opinion about something but until you’re actually in this situation and going through it, you don’t understand how complex it is. I also want to say that we must continue to raise consciousness and awareness about situations like this because it’s happening all over. … And it’s so much bigger than us and our family.”
CNN/s Amanda Musa contributed to this report.