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Hastings Center News

Louisiana’s “Medically Futile” Unborn Child List: Misguided Response to the post-Dobbs Landscape

Louisiana—a state with sweeping abortion restrictions—issued an emergency declaration last August with a list of fetal diagnoses for which abortions will be permitted. The “List of Conditions that Shall Deem an Unborn Child ‘Medically Futile’” raises medical, ethical, and public health concerns and should be rescinded, conclude the authors of an essay in the Hastings Center Report

“We find Louisiana’s emergency declaration to be objectionable for at least three reasons: its mistaken use of the concept of medical futility, both its factually erroneous descriptions of some of the diagnoses in question and mistaken assumptions about disability in general, and the multiple unethical implications it harbors for perpetuating ableism” write Laura Guidry-Grimes, an associate staff bioethicist at the Cleveland Clinic and a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine; Devan Stahl, is an assistant professor of bioethics and religion at Baylor University; and Joel Michael Reynolds, is an assistant professor of philosophy and disability studies at Georgetown University, a senior research scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics; a senior advisor to The Hastings Center, and a Hastings Center fellow.

“Although the authors of this piece support reproductive autonomy and the goal of urgently and capaciously expanding protected options for pregnant persons, we argue that the declaration is a misguided response to the post-Dobbs reproductive landscape and that states seeking to uphold evidence-based health care delivery should learn from its mistakes. To do so, they can also turn to the now large body of work that calls upon medical professionals and policy-makers to better understand the social, legal, and political dimensions of disability.”