Florida court: 16-year-olds not mature enough for abortions

Hospital denies abortion to Louisiana woman whose 10-week-old fetus missing a skull

36-year-old hires lawyer after medical center refused to conduct procedure because acrania not on list of exceptions to ban; so she’s forced to cross state lines for operation

Nancy Davis (WAFB screenshot)
Nancy Davis (WAFB screenshot)

A Louisiana woman was recently denied an abortion from a local medical center even though an ultrasound revealed that her 10-week-old fetus would be born without a skull and would die immediately.

The story was picked up by The Guardian on Saturday after the 36-year-old woman hired a prominent attorney in an apparent effort to wage a legal battle against the state of Louisiana.

It is unclear what legal means will be at her disposal though, and her only option to avoid carrying the baby to term may be to travel several states over to Florida or North Carolina in order to have an abortion – a trip not all woman can afford to take.

Nancy Davis’s story is the latest of several extreme cases that have gained national attention following the US Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn abortion rights nationwide. The top court placed the issue in the hands of individual states to decide, and Louisiana is one of ten states that had near-complete bans already on the books, ready to be retroactively applied once Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Davis says that the Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge denied her request for an abortion after the ultrasound because the condition of acrania where a baby is born without a skull is not included on the list of exceptions to the state abortion ban. The medical center said the woman’s Medicaid health insurance would not cover the procedure and directed her to an abortion clinic. However, Louisiana abortion clinics have announced plans to leave the state since the June Supreme Court ruling, The Guardian reported.

Citing patient privacy concerns, a spokesperson for the Woman’s Hospital declined CNN’s request for comment but did note that unviable pregnancies have been difficult for its staff to navigate since the Supreme Court ruling.

State Sen. Katrina Jackson, who authored the Louisiana legislation banning abortions told a local news channel that the hospital should’ve carried out the abortion because the law still says exceptions can be made for fetuses that cannot survive outside a mother’s womb.

However, Davis’s attorney Ben Crump’s office said in a press statement that the legislation was not clearly written, allowing for hospitals to make decisions such as the one taken against his client. Crump has represented the families of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor, helping them win tens of millions of dollars in settlement money.

His office accused Louisiana Republicans who authored the abortion ban of “inflicting profound emotional and physical trauma” on Davis and other women in similar situations.

In the meantime, Davis told Baton Rouge TV station WAFB that she would be traveling out of state to conduct the abortion and opened up a GoFundMe in order to raise the necessary funds.

“It’s hard knowing that… I’m carrying it to bury it,” she said, adding that acrania needs to be in that list” of exceptions to the abortion ban.”

Earlier this summer, a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped and impregnated was forced to travel to neighboring Indiana to abort her fetus due to her native state’s stringent abortion laws.

Also this week, an appeals court in Florida upheld a ruling that a 16-year-old girl is not “sufficiently mature” enough to get an abortion — a decision that sparked the ire of some US lawmakers.

Demonstrators participate in an abortion-rights rally at Lafayette Park in front of the White House in Washington, July 4, 2022. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

Two months after the June Supreme Court ruling, the teenager’s case is fuelling new anger over women’s rights in the United States.

The girl, who is not identified, told a lower court she was “not ready to have a baby,” that she was still in school and had no job, and that the father of the child could not help her.

Minors seeking an abortion in Florida need the consent of at least one of their parents. But the girl is “parentless,” lives with a relative and has a state-appointed guardian, court documents showed.

She was seeking a waiver of that rule — but the lower court said she had “not established by clear and convincing evidence that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.”

On Monday, a state appeals court upheld that decision, igniting anger among US lawmakers.

“If you’re infuriated because a court is forcing a teenager to carry a pregnancy to term after ruling she was not ‘mature’ enough to have an abortion, you’re not alone. It is abhorrent,” tweeted Democratic congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who has spoken openly about her own abortion.

Supporters of abortion rights rally against recently passed restrictions on abortions in the Statehouse rotunda Tuesday, May 21, 2019, at the Nebraska Capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska (AP Photo/Grant Schulte)

Lois Frankel, a Democratic lawmaker from Florida, called the decision “unacceptable,” adding: “This is a dangerous & horrific example of Florida’s war on women.”

“In what world is a 16-year-old too immature to receive an abortion but mature enough to commit to carrying and raising a child?” asked Ohio Democrat Joyce Beatty, also on Twitter.

“Not mature enough for an abortion, but mature enough to have a baby. This is sick,” agreed Pennsylvania lawmaker Malcolm Kenyatta.

The teenager had told the court that her guardian had given their consent for the abortion, but that consent did not appear to have been made in writing, court documents showed.

The girl was 10 weeks pregnant, according to the documents.

After the Supreme Court reversed the nationwide right to abortion in June, handing the decision back to the states, Florida changed its laws to ban the procedure after 15 weeks, when the previous cut-off was 24 weeks.

Other Republican-led states in the American South — including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia — have almost completely banned the practice or reduced the window to six weeks.

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