New Orleans health director fears state abortion bans will harm patients and discourage doctors

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – The head of the New Orleans Department of Health, Dr. Jennifer Avegno said Louisiana’s anti-abortion laws will hurt patient care and worsen the state’s doctor shortage. And Avegno thinks the state legislature can improve the situation.

Doctors said bans on most abortions affect more than just that procedure. They said the bans are jeopardizing other health care and that women will suffer as a result.

“There are a lot of doctors out there who have worked hard not to get to this point,” Avegno said. “And, I have to say, we’re incredibly disappointed and frustrated by what we’ve seen.”

The three inducement bans took effect shortly after the US Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which gave women federal abortion rights.

“With the activation bans now, it makes it even more difficult, more confusing not only for our patients, but also for our doctors, who now face criminal charges if they do anything trying to care for a woman that is interpreted as illegal,” Avegno said. “All of this will lead to delays in care, which will only make things worse for our patients.”

Louisiana law includes the possibility of imprisonment for doctors who violate abortion bans.

“Whether you’re an OBGYN, whether you’re an emergency physician, whether you’re a high-risk specialist, we see complications of pregnancies all the time,” Avegno said. “And we have plenty of tried and true, safe ways to manage that that allow us to preserve health and put that patient’s life first.

“What’s happening now is that we’re being asked to second-guess a lot of this, and that’s a terrible position to put a doctor in.”

In Baton Rouge, there were new court filings this week related to a lawsuit challenging the bans. The lawsuit was originally filed in New Orleans, but a judge last Friday ordered it to be heard in the state capital. Judge Ethel Julien also refused to extend a temporary restraining order blocking the bans.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry was asked about the doctors’ concerns as he spoke to reporters Friday.

“Those doctors can become plaintiffs if they want to, and they can go to Baton Rouge and we can argue this case in the courts,” he said.

On June 29, Landry sent a letter to the Louisiana State Medical Society in which he opined that the temporary restraining order at the time “does not — and cannot — immunize medical providers from liability for criminal conduct.”

“We’ve talked to both the medical society and the medical board,” Landry told reporters. “We’re trying to work through specific issues that physicians should try to clarify concerns that they have.”

Avegno said maternal outcomes in the state are already sub-optimal, especially for black women.

“Louisiana is a state that consistently ranks at the bottom for maternal mortality and morbidity, in a country that ranks at the bottom compared to other developed countries,” she said. “So we don’t already have a system that really supports strong women’s health, especially for our black women, who are at even higher rates of bad things happening during pregnancy.”

She believes the abortion laws will make doctors question whether they want to practice in Louisiana when there’s a chance they could be jailed for making the best decision about their patients’ care.

“Any delay in care worsens outcomes,” Avegno said. “What it also does, for many of my physician colleagues, is cause them to ask themselves, ‘Do I want to practice medicine in a state where I could go to jail for trying to do what I’ve been taught to do? do, what I know how to do? be good medical care?’ A lot of them will make a decision that they don’t. We already have a doctor shortage, especially a (obstetrician) shortage, especially in rural areas of the state. So it affects everybody.”

In a statement filed July 5 in the lawsuit, OBGYN Dr. Alexandra W. Band said a patient could not get the drug Cytotec filled at a pharmacy for an IUD procedure, given concerns about Louisiana’s strict anti-abortion laws.

Part of her statement read: “Walgreens called my office. They asked if the prescription was for an abortion. And when the answer was, ‘No, it’s prescribed for the IUD to be put in to make it less painful,’ the response from Walgreens was that they still wouldn’t fill the prescription because they couldn’t be sure that we weren’t we described this for an abortion. , and so they will no longer distribute the medicine. For obvious reasons, this is interfering with the best and most appropriate medical care I can provide to my patients and it interferes with any medical judgment and my patient-doctor relationship.”

Fox 8 reached out to Walgreens for comment, but has not yet heard back from the company.

Avegno was asked if the Louisiana Legislature should change the controversial laws.

“Absolutely,” she said.

Avegno provided specifics of what she thinks the legislature should address.

“For example, two doctors must certify a medically useless pregnancy. There is a real burden on women who live in a third of our parishes where they don’t even have one OB provider, much less two OB providers,” she said. “Hard prison time for doctors has a chilling effect on their ability to practice and this can be removed. And so much uncertainty about medications commonly used to treat abortion that we’re now finding our pharmacies are afraid to dispense.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is telling hospitals that they “must” provide abortion services if the mother’s life is in danger. He says the federal law on emergency treatment guidelines preempts state laws in jurisdictions that now ban the procedure without any exceptions.

The Department of Health and Human Services on Monday cited the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires medical facilities to determine whether a person seeking treatment may be in labor or facing an emergency health situation — or one that could become an emergency. – and to provide treatment.

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