In A Flash
State board to Louisiana doctors on abortion: Talk to a lawyer
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, emergency health care providers in states that ban abortion have had to make wrenching legal and ethical judgments before treating a pregnant woman whose health or life may be in peril.(Canva image)
To doctors confused about when abortion is legal, the state board in charge of licensing advises them to consult with their attorneys.
The Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners sent guidance to its members Thursday, when the state’s abortion laws remained in limbo. A near-total abortion ban is currently suspended pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the state over whether its three so-called trigger laws are unconstitutionally vague.
“Legal challenges continue in this arena and the status of the law may be in a state of flux for some time to come, and further rule-making is anticipated,” the board’s guidance reads.
In a series of sworn affidavits, more than a dozen Louisiana health care providers have said confusion over the laws prevents them from providing adequate patient care.
Dr. Valerie Williams, a New Orleans obstetrician and gynecologist, wrote that a hospital attorney prevented her from performing an abortion on a patient whose water broke before the fetus was viable. It forced the patient to spend hours in labor, and she ultimately lost more than a liter of blood.
Attorney General Jeff Landry, a defendant in the lawsuit with the state health department, maintains that the law is clear. His attorney in the case argued that the situation that Williams laid out is not considered an abortion and therefore should have been permitted.
The board of medical examiners also reminded physicians to file a report for each abortion performed, as required by law, and advised doctors to provide “detailed and meticulous documentation.”
The memo also speculated hospitals will come up with protocols for different treatment scenarios, and that doctors could turn to hospital ethics boards and other physicians as resources.
The Louisiana Department of Health is expected to provide a certain degree of clarification when it creates a list of medically futile conditions a fetus could have that would qualify the pregnant person for an abortion. The department is expected to release the list on Monday.
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