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Louisiana doctors detail unintended consequences of state's abortion ban

Louisiana's abortion ban
Louisiana doctors detail unintended consequences of state's abortion ban 04:59

"I am more likely to die than my mother was in childbirth. So as a country, our outcomes are getting worse," Dr. Rebekah Gee, an OB-GYN and a former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, told 60 Minutes.

Gee was interviewed by 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi as part of Sunday's report on maternal mortality rates in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. has one of the highest rates of maternal death in the developed world, with Louisiana possessing some of the highest rates of any American state.

Last year when the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, Louisiana implemented a sweeping abortion ban that threatened physicians who violate the new law with a revoked medical license and possible prison time. 

"You can have a ban on abortion, and not criminalize physicians who are trying to provide the standard of care for miscarriage or early pregnancy loss or any pregnancy loss," said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, an emergency room doctor, and the director of the New Orleans Health Department.

Some physicians say that unintended consequences of the new law are already negatively impacting the health of pregnant women and their access to health care, while putting doctors in a difficult bind.

"We take an oath to do no harm, and that's really our north star as a physician," Dr. Avegno told 60 Minutes. "But when the prospect of doing that might cause you to be brought up on criminal charges…that's a really difficult place for our physicians to be."

According to Dr. Avegno and Dr. Rebekah Gee, some physicians fear that certain treatments for women suffering from miscarriages could be misconstrued as providing an abortion and be deemed illegal, despite it being the standard of care in other states.

"A woman who's already pregnant but is having bleeding or infection, the laws are unclear," Dr. Gee told 60 Minutes. "You know, to save her life, does that mean she can lose her lungs or her heart or other organs? What needs to be at risk in terms of her health for a doctor to intervene?"

Gee told 60 Minutes that obstetrics and gynecology are nuanced fields, and she hopes Louisiana's legislators will amend its abortion ban to eliminate potential criminal penalties for doctors and consider how the law impacts broader access to maternal medical care.

The Louisiana abortion ban was supported overwhelmingly by the Republican-dominated legislature. Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, signed the bill into law last summer.

You can watch Sharyn Alfonsi's full report, "The Domino Effect," below.

Inside the fight to slash the maternal mortality rate in the South | 60 Minutes 13:19

The video at the top was originally published on April 30, 2023. It was produced by Keith Zubrow and edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.

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