New Investigative Report Documents How Louisiana Abortion Bans Hurt Patients and Doctors

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A new investigative report from the Center for Reproductive Rights, Lift Louisiana, Physicians for Human Rights, and Reproductive Health Impact documents numerous devastating harms to Louisiana patients and doctors caused by state laws that criminalize abortion care.

Louisiana law prohibits abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with narrow and ill-defined exceptions, and providers risk civil, professional, and criminal penalties for violations.

In addition to violating evidence-based public health guidelines, longstanding medical ethical standards, and international human rights, Louisiana’s abortion bans undermine maternal health in a state with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, according to the report.

Noble Criminalized Care: How Louisiana’s Abortion Bans Endanger Patients and Doctors, The report is based on research conducted between May and November 2023 using in-depth interviews with dozens of Louisiana physicians and patients, as well as focus group discussions with state community organizations involved in enabling access to reproductive health care.

“This report vividly documents how Louisiana’s abortion bans violate pregnant people’s human rights to health, life, and reproductive autonomy,” said Karla Torres, Senior Counsel for U.S. Human Rights at the Center. “These findings are a striking indictment of the medical care pregnant people receive in the post-maternity period.Roe America. In a state already facing a maternal health crisis that disproportionately affects Black people, the findings reveal how bans put the lives and health of pregnant people at risk every day.”

The study details how Louisiana laws have changed the daily practice of medicine and the devastating impact this has had on both patients and providers.

Among its many alarming findings, the report documents how Louisiana’s abortion bans are:

  • Undermining maternal health by delaying the initiation of prenatal care, often beyond the first trimester, to avoid the risk that miscarriage care will be misinterpreted as an abortion.
  • Erode physicians’ ethical obligations to provide patients with the appropriate level of medical care by threatening them with severe professional, civil, and criminal sanctions.
  • Denying and delaying abortion care to patients facing pregnancy complications and serious, life-threatening health conditions.
  • Disproportionately harming historically marginalized communities and groups, who often live in “maternity care deserts” and do not have the resources to travel out of state for care.
  • Harm the patient-provider relationship due to confusion about what information, including referrals, doctors can provide.

Additionally, the report shows how the state’s abortion bans violate international human rights obligations to protect reproductive health and autonomy and override existing federal statutes to protect patients’ access to emergency care, including the Act federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor (EMTALA).

At least where I work, there is no longer in-office first trimester care. Any bleeding, anything, is reported to the emergency room. . . “Patients are told to only begin prenatal care toward the end of the trimester, when the risk of miscarriage is lower.”

An OB-GYN comments on the delay in prenatal care

Criminalized Care: How Louisiana’s Abortion Bans Endanger Patients and Doctors outlines specific recommendations on how to address these harms, including repealing Louisiana’s abortion bans, decriminalizing abortion, and ensuring Louisianans have access to reproductive health care. Additionally, call on hospitals and healthcare professionals to speak out against these harmful bans and on state medical associations to strongly advocate for their repeal.

“The Louisiana government must urgently meet its human rights obligations by repealing state abortion bans and ensuring that all Louisianans have access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including abortion,” Torres added.

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