Woman May Be Forced to Give Birth to a Headless Baby Because of an Abortion Ban

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Protesters march down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, on May 25, 2019, to protest the proposed Heartbeat Bill that will ban abortion after 6 weeks in that state scheduled for a vote on May 28. (EMILY KASK/AFP via Getty Images)

It was at her first ultrasound that Nancy Davis said she learned there was no way the baby, about whom she’d once been so excited, would ever grow up.

“It was an abnormal ultrasound, and they noticed the top of the baby’s head was missing and the skull was missing, the top of the skull was missing,” Davis told local news outlet WAFB-9 in a story published Monday. “It’s hard, knowing that I’m carrying it to bury it, you know what I’m saying?”

Davis said she was 10 weeks into her pregnancy at the time of her ultrasound but is unable to get an abortion in her home state of Louisiana, thanks to the state’s near-total ban on the procedure. Her only options, she said, are to either carry the pregnancy to term or go out of state for an abortion.

In the weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion access has flickered in the state, as abortion-rights supporters have fought to keep the procedure legal. On Friday, however, Louisiana’s Supreme Court ruled to let the state’s near-total abortion ban remain in effect.

The ban does not have exceptions for abortions in cases of rape or incest. Abortions are now only permitted “to prevent the death or substantial risk of death due to a physical condition, or to prevent the serious, permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ of a pregnant woman.”

Earlier this month, the Louisiana Department of Health released a list of medical conditions that would make a pregnancy “medically futile” and clear the way for a pregnant person to get an abortion. At the time, medical professionals criticized the list as incomplete.

“I can already see things are missing on this,” Dr. Rebekah Gee, an OB-GYN and the former Louisiana secretary of health, told Nola.com. “I can name one, and I’ve just looked at this list for 30 seconds.”

Davis told WAFB-9 that her pregnancy has been impacted by a condition known as acrania. It is not explicitly mentioned on the Department of Health’s list, although that list does include a broad exception for other types of anomalies—as long as two physicians deem that anomaly valid.

Several other states have also now implemented abortion bans that include exemptions for medical emergencies—but these bans often have differing, nuanced language that, doctors have told VICE News, fails to take into account the complexity of pregnancy and the medical conditions that can affect it. These kinds of bans can leave doctors flailing, unsure of what their legal risks are or how to care for patients in crisis.

Are you a doctor or patient who’s dealing with abortion bans and medical emergencies? Reach out to Carter Sherman at carter.sherman@vice.com, or DM her on Twitter at @carter_sherman for Signal.

Davis, who already has a child, has refrained from taking a position on abortion, WAFB-9 reported. She said she is now 13 weeks into her pregnancy.

“I just want them to consider special circumstances as it relates to abortion, medical programs,” Davis said. “Like this is one that needs to be—you know what I’m saying—in there.”

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