ACLU Praises Court Decision Striking Arizona Jail Policy Denying Inmates Access to Timely, Safe and Legal Abortions

August 25, 2005 12:00 am

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PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union hailed an Arizona court decision issued yesterday afternoon striking down a dangerous and unfair prison policy denying inmates access to timely, safe and legal abortions.

“”We are pleased that the court recognized that denying women inmates access to abortion services is dangerous, unjust and serves no legitimate purpose,”” said Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “”Jails cannot ignore women’s medical needs simply because they do not agree with a woman’s decision to end a pregnancy.””

At issue in this case is a Maricopa County jail policy denying inmates access to abortion services. The unwritten policy prohibited officials from transporting an inmate to obtain an abortion unless she first obtained a court order. The jail transports inmates for medical care without a court order for medical needs other than abortion, including prenatal care and childbirth.

In May 2004, after weeks of being denied access to abortion services, a pregnant inmate filed the lawsuit against the jail on behalf of herself and other future inmates seeking abortion care.

In it’s decision, the Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County, held that “”there is no legitimate penological purpose,”” for the jail’s policy.

“”Forcing an inmate to get a court order before she can obtain an abortion puts unnecessary and dangerous obstacles in the path of women seeking medical care,”” Melling said.

The case is Doe v. Arpaio, et al. CV 2004-009286. Cooperating counsel for the ACLU of Arizona represented the plaintiff in this case.

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