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Louisiana woman carrying a fetus with acrania travels to New York for abortion

Nancy Davis, left, stands with her partner and lawyer in front of the Louisiana legislature on Aug. 26.
Paul Braun/WRKF
Nancy Davis, left, stands with her partner and lawyer in front of the Louisiana legislature on Aug. 26.

A Louisiana woman denied an abortion at a Baton Rouge hospital, despite carrying a fetus with no brain or skull, traveled to New York this month to have her procedure.

Nancy Davis told media she’d had the procedure on Sept. 1 at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Manhattan, where abortion is still legal no matter the circumstance of the patient.

"It's still taken an emotional toll on me,” Davis said during an appearance on the Dr. Phil show on Sept. 12. “I have problems sleeping at night, I have problems eating. It's been very emotionally draining.”

Davis, a 36-year-old mother of three, was 10 weeks pregnant when doctors at Woman’s Hospital diagnosed her fetus with acrania this summer, in the weeks after Louisiana’s near-total abortion ban took effect, shuttering the state’s three abortion clinics.

A maternal fetal medicine specialist initially told Davis that he could perform an abortion, under a narrow exception to the ban for medically futile pregnancies. But Woman’s Hospital officials said they later denied Davis’s abortion out of concern the procedure could run afoul of a slew of Lousiaina anti-abortion laws now in effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to an abortion.

State Sen. Kathrina Jackson (D-Monroe), the author of the trigger ban, has said the hospital could have legally performed the abortion.

Davis’ story has underlined the heightened confusion and haphazard access to abortion at Louisiana hosptials, some of which have policies against providing abortions even for cases where a fetus is bound to die — including Catholic hospitals that are part of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System. Ochsner Health, the largest health system in the state, routinely denies women care for those kinds of pregnancies, according to doctors who work there.

Davis has publicized her case in local and national media to draw attention to the impact of abortions bans.

“I want you to imagine what it's been like to continue this pregnancy for another six weeks after this diagnosis. This is not fair to me. And it should not happen to any other woman,” Davis said at a press conference earlier this month.

She’s called for the Louisiana legislature to revise its ban in a special legislative session.

More than 1,000 people donated around $40,000 to Davis’ GoFundMe campaign that sought financial support for the abortion cost, travel, childcare and mental health services.

Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.