ACLU Asks Court to Uphold Decision Allowing Inmates To Access Abortion Care

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
May 12, 2006 12:00 am

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PHOENIX — The American Civil Liberties Union today asked an Arizona court of appeals to uphold a lower court decision allowing inmates access to timely, safe, and legal abortions.

“Jail officials cannot ignore the medical needs of inmates simply because they do not agree with the decision to end a pregnancy,” said Brigitte Amiri, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We hope that the court will see this policy for what it is: dangerous and unjust.”

At issue is an unwritten Maricopa County Jail policy denying inmates access to abortion care. The policy prohibits jail officials from transporting an inmate to obtain an abortion. The only way an inmate can get an abortion is by seeking and obtaining a court order. The jail transports inmates without a court order for all other necessary medical care, including prenatal care and childbirth.

In August 2005, the Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County, struck down the jail’s policy, holding that it serves “no legitimate penological purpose.” After weeks of being denied access to abortion services, a pregnant inmate filed the case in May 2004 on behalf of herself and future inmates seeking abortion care. Because of the policy, the inmate was delayed seven weeks from the time she first told jail officials she wanted an abortion.

“The Maricopa jail is putting unnecessary obstacles in the paths of women seeking basic medical care,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Regardless of whether a woman is in jail, she still has a constitutional right to make her own decision – without government interference – about whether or not to have an abortion. ”

According to today’s brief, the ACLU noted that Joe Arpaio, the sheriff in charge of Maricopa County Jail, has “maintained the Policy throughout his tenure, consistent with his well-publicized stance against abortion and his ‘America’s toughest sheriff’ persona.”

The ACLU today filed a brief in the case, Doe v. Arpaio, 1 CA-CV 05-0835. Lawyers on the case include Amiri, Talcott Camp, Jennifer McAllister-Nevins, and Charu Chandrasekhar with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

To read today’s brief visit:

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