Woman claims Louisiana won’t let her abort baby with fetal diagnosis, but the law says she can

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Nancy Davis was 10 weeks pregnant when doctors told her that her baby has acrania, a condition in which the baby’s skull does not develop and the brain is therefore exposed to amniotic fluid. Davis said her doctors recommended an abortion but that the law in Louisiana is preventing her from undergoing one. Though there is a 10% chance that her baby will survive, Davis has opened a GoFundMe account in hopes of raising $45,000 to travel for an abortion.

‘Carry my baby to bury my baby’

While Davis has said, “There’s nothing I wanted more than this child” and “Being a mother starts in the womb, it starts when you conceive,” she also said that carrying her baby for even just six more weeks after the diagnosis had not been “fair” to her. She simultaneously argues that death by abortion is “the best thing for my child.”

She explained, “The doctors told me that my baby would die shortly after birth. 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.”

There is no doubt that Davis has suffered trauma from receiving a life-limiting diagnosis (90% fatal) for her baby and by being told by doctors that her child would be better off dead than allowed to live out his or her natural life. The likelihood is that if Davis’s child dies at birth, Davis will have a proper burial for her child; if her child instead dies by abortion, that child would not receive a burial but would instead be discarded as medical waste.

READ: Doctors advised abortion, but Waverly’s parents chose life despite her ‘lethal’ diagnosis

At 14 weeks, the most commonly used abortion procedure is a dilation & evacuation (D&E abortion), often called a dismemberment abortion because the child dies when her limbs are torn off and her skull is crushed. While killing a child in order to avoid the child’s death at a later point in time is an attempt to avoid the pain of child loss, it may leave Davis at an increased risk of further trauma. Women who choose abortion for their babies following a prenatal diagnosis are at a greater risk of emotional distress than those who choose to carry their babies to term.


According to Perinatal Hospice and Palliative Care, which provides resources for parents who are facing such a diagnosis, significant research shows that women who have an abortion following a fetal diagnosis suffer “physical and emotional pain, with psychosocial and reproductive consequences.” In addition, studies show that aborting a ‘wanted’ baby due to a diagnosis can be a “traumatic event … which entails the risk of severe and complicated grieving” and that after 14 months, 17% of women who had an abortion following a fetal diagnosis were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, or depression.

There is no research that supports the idea that having an abortion following a prenatal diagnosis is psychologically better than carrying to term and preparing for the child’s death. In fact, one study determined, “Couples experienced selective termination as traumatic … [T]he women ultimately felt as if they were betraying themselves and their babies.”

“Termination is not a shortcut through grief,” noted the organization.

Louisiana’s abortion law

Louisiana’s “trigger law” went into effect immediately following the fall of Roe v. Wade in June. That law states that anyone who commits an abortion could face one to 10 years in jail and fines of $10,000 to $100,000. There is an exception to the law if the mother’s physical health or life is at risk (though life-affirming options are available and there is no need to kill a preborn child intentionally).

In addition, a temporary emergency rule was enacted on August 1 that will be in effect for 180 days or until the rule is officially finalized and put into effect. That emergency rule states that Louisiana’s law prohibiting the killing of a child during delivery does not apply to doctors who kill preborn babies who have been diagnosed with specific health conditions that have been labeled as a “medically futile diagnosis.” Acrania is not on the list, though a condition closely linked to it — anencephaly — is on the list.

A spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Health has announced that because of Davis’s case the department would add acrania to the list of fetal conditions named as examples that would deem a baby to be “medically futile” and allow for an abortion. The list also includes Down syndrome and Edward’s syndrome. Yet, people with these conditions are living and thriving after birth. The list also includes any condition that two physicians determine to be “incompatible with sustaining life.”

Essentially, according to this emergency rule, any child with any health condition could be aborted as long as two doctors agree.

This also means that Davis could have an abortion in Louisiana if two doctors agreed on it.

Choosing life

Rather than advising Davis to have an abortion to avoid her child’s natural death, doctors could have ensured Davis was given real options so she could carry to term with peace of mind instead of fear. Sarah Zagorski, a spokeswoman for Louisiana Right to Life, said that in Davis’s case, it would suggest “support for families and perinatal palliative care from the moment of the diagnosis through the duration of the child’s natural life.”

Perinatal hospice and palliative care offer support for parents and families following a prenatal diagnosis that could cause their child’s death before or shortly after birth. The support begins at the time of diagnosis, through the baby’s birth, and until the baby’s death. It can include birth planning, emotional support, and help with medical decision-making before the baby is born. If the child survives longer than expected, that support will extend to include newborn care, including comfort and nutrition as well as medical treatments.

There are better options than abortion when a preborn child receives a diagnosis, and parents (and their children) deserve to learn about all of those options from their doctors and other members of the medical community.

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