ACLU Applauds Supreme Court Decision Allowing Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services for MO Prison Inmate

Affiliate: ACLU of Missouri
October 17, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing access to reproductive healthcare for a prison inmate in Missouri. The inmate is seeking access to abortion services.

“”We are extremely pleased with the Court’s decision to let the district court’s ruling stand and allow this woman to access constitutionally protected reproductive health services,”” said Talcott Camp, Deputy Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “”Women do not give up the right to terminate a pregnancy when they enter prison any more than they give up the right to carry a pregnancy to term, and we are glad the Court agreed.””

On October 13, 2005, a federal district court in Missouri ordered the state to transfer the inmate, referred to in Court papers as “”Jane Roe,”” to a healthcare facility for an abortion. Rather than comply with that ruling, the Missouri Attorney General’s office asked the district court, and then the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, for an order suspending that ruling.

Both the district court and a unanimous panel of the Eighth Circuit denied the state’s request for an order suspending the ruling. The state then filed papers with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is assigned to hear such motions from the Eighth Circuit. He granted a temporary suspension of the ruling late on October 14, 2005, and then referred the matter to the full Court. Today, the full Court voted to deny the state’s request not to comply with the district court’s original ruling.

“”For weeks, the state of Missouri went to extreme lengths to deny this woman access to medical care,”” said Camp. “”The state’s actions in this case were contrary to Missouri’s own long-standing policy when it comes to inmates’ access to reproductive healthcare, in addition to policies in the federal prison system and all the state prison systems we know of.””

A ruling from the Court denying inmates access to specific reproductive healthcare services would have amounted to an outright ban on abortion for prisoners, the ACLU said. Today’s ruling follows long-established precedent that the Constitution protects the right of all women, including those in prison, to access abortion.

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