State health department holds public hearing over abortion exceptions
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The list of exceptions the state allows for women to get an abortion has caused a storm of controversy and legal battles.
One of the most high-profile cases involves a woman who was denied the procedure at a Baton Rouge hospital despite her unborn baby being diagnosed with a condition that would make it impossible for her to carry to term. She eventually went out of state to end the pregnancy.
That condition was one not listed by the health department as a clear exception to the state’s abortion law. Many say it’s a prime example of the confusion caused by the whole thing.
Part of what the legislature asked the Department of Health to do back in August when they tried adding Acrania to the list was to include a public hearing, which happened Tuesday morning. Medical professionals from across the state are criticizing Louisiana’s list of conditions allowing doctors to override the statewide ban and perform an abortion. Some of those who spoke out at an LDH hearing on Tuesday believe the list of 25 exceptions presents a danger to women’s healthcare.
“The list as it exists has created an atmosphere of terror,” said Dr. Nina Breakstone, an emergency room doctor out of New Orleans.
The discussion on Tuesday focused on adding Acrania to the list of exceptions after Nancy Davis’s fight to have an abortion made headlines nationwide. Davis’s baby was diagnosed with the impossible-to-survive condition while she was just several weeks pregnant. In our first sit down with Davis, she shared her agony of being forced to carry a baby she knew wouldn’t make it. She eventually traveled to New York to get an abortion.
“Louisiana adding these exceptions will protect women as well as protect them from what I went through. I hope Louisiana considers adding these as an emergency because women need healthcare now,” said Davis in an interview.
Pro-life advocates were also in attendance, some even with medical backgrounds. They called the list of exceptions, a hitlist for the unwanted.
“We in the medical field have two patients when a mother becomes pregnant, the mother and the baby...we treat both...we do not kill one,” said Richard Mahoney, a retired respiratory therapist.
“I’m speaking for so many who made the same horrific mistake as I did,” said Susan Raborn, a pro-life advocate.
They were quickly met with different opinions.
“I am here to beg for an expansion of this LDH list,” added Dr. Breakstone.
“The department of health has not clarified the definition of a medically futile fetus. The lack of elaboration puts the physician at risk for not understanding the regulations,” said Olivia French, a first-year medical student.
Many hope to see lawmakers review the law during the next legislative session to add even more exceptions. Governor Edwards, who has signed many pro-life bills into law including the trigger ban, has said recently he supports adding rape and incest to the list.
“You all know that I will be pushing, and I have been for the legislature to create even more exceptions. I do believe we need a rape and incest exception as well, that’s something I hope the legislature will take up ad pass and the session is going to start in April,” said Governor Edwards to reporters on Tuesday.
LDH is expected to put together an oversight report after today’s hearing to present to the legislature. It’s still unclear after Tuesday when we can all see the report and if it will include any changes to the exceptions.
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