"America's Toughest Sheriff" Agrees To Stop Requiring Court Orders For Abortions But Creates New Obstacle

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
July 2, 2009 12:00 am

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ACLU Asks Court To Block Arpaio’s Bait and Switch

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PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union late yesterday asked an Arizona court to prevent Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio from requiring inmates to prepay transportation costs before they can obtain an abortion.

As part of a partial settlement in an ACLU lawsuit involving the right of women prisoners to obtain timely, safe and legal abortions, Arpaio agreed to follow a 2005 court order prohibiting Maricopa County correctional facilities from requiring inmates to obtain a court order before an abortion. However, in the course of settlement negotiations, Arpaio decided inmates must prepay transportation and security costs associated with obtaining the procedure.

“After defying court rulings that prison officials cannot require women prisoners to obtain a court order before an abortion, Sherriff Arpaio finally agreed to abide by the courts; however, he put up yet another obstacle to care,” said Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Arpaio’s new requirement that inmates must pay for transportation costs upfront amounts to a bait and switch. It’s time for Sherriff Arpaio to stop playing games with women’s health.”

In May 2004, on behalf of a woman inmate seeking an abortion, the ACLU challenged an unwritten Maricopa County Jail policy that required inmates to obtain a court order before officials would transport for abortion care. The Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County, struck down the unwritten policy in August 2005, holding that it violated women’s reproductive rights and served “no legitimate penological purpose.” The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld that decision; both the Arizona and the United States Supreme courts refused to hear the case.

Regardless of these rulings, Maricopa County Jail continued to require women to obtain a court order before an abortion, and in August 2008, the ACLU asked the court to hold Arpaio in contempt. In the course of settlement negotiations in that case, Arpaio shifted tactics and began insisting that inmates who seek abortions must pay upfront for transportation and security costs. Inmates requiring transportation for other medical care are not charged for transport either before or after receiving services.

“The courts have already confirmed our position that Arizona prison officials cannot put up roadblocks to abortion care simply because they do not agree with the decision to end a pregnancy,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Sheriff Arpaio’s latest move to require prepayment is just another way for him to take the law into his own hands.”

In last week’s partial settlement, Arpaio agreed to notify all employees and include information in the Rules and Regulations for Inmates that a court order is not required for a pregnant inmate to obtain abortion care.

The case is Doe v. Arpaio, CV2004-009286. Lawyers on the case include Amiri and Talcott Camp with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, and Dan Pochoda of the ACLU of Arizona.

To read the brief: www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/abortion/40106lgl20090701.html

To read last week’s partial settlement: www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/abortion/40091lgl20090619.html

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