Settlement of ACLU of Ohio "Pregnant Prisoner" Case Brings New Protections for Women in Jail

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
June 4, 2002 12:00 am

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Settlement of ACLU of Ohio “”Pregnant Prisoner”” Case Brings New Protections for Women in Jail


CLEVELAND–Inmates seeking abortions will be provided more timely care under a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio that accused a judge of jailing a woman to prevent her from having an abortion, the ACLU announced today.

The ACLU sued on behalf of Yuriko Kawaguchi, 25, who was sentenced to six months in jail in 1998 for forgery. The judge, Patricia Cleary, maintained that although she personally opposes abortion, her decision was based on the law.

After she was released, Kawaguchi was advised by doctors it was too late to get an abortion. She gave birth in 1999 and lives with her daughter.

“It’s been a hard personal journey,” Kawaguchi told news reporters at a settlement hearing today. “I’m really hoping that nobody else has to go through what I’ve gone through.”

The settlement agreement incorporates what is likely one of the most far-reaching and progressive commitments to reproductive health and freedom of choice for women in any local prison in the county, the ACLU said. The agreement commits the jail to a program that includes:

1. Screening of female inmates for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and for risks to minor children of their incarceration;

2. Educational programs regarding safe sex, contraception, and family planning;

3. Information regarding prenatal care, availability and cost of pregnancy termination services and adoption services;

4. Transportation by female corrections officers of pregnant inmates for medical treatment, including pregnancy termination, following state mandated counseling;

5. Visitation by minor children (where possible) with mothers incarcerated at the County jail; and

6. Education for jail social workers regarding women’s reproductive health issues, including available medical treatment, birth control, pregnancy termination and adoption services.

The ACLU had successfully argued in the Eighth District Court of Appeals that Kawaguchi’s sentence of incarceration was improperly based on her stated intention to abort her pregnancy if granted probation (the recommended sentence in her case).

Kawaguchi was subsequently granted early release from probation. In the three years since the appeals court reversed Judge Cleary’s sentence and ordered probation, Kawaguchi has returned to college, held two full-time jobs, and received an associate degree with honors. She will re-enter the University of California at Berkeley in the fall of this year.

Cleary was defeated for re-election in November 2000 was thereafter suspended from the practice of law for six months by the Ohio Supreme Court based on her conduct surrounding the case.

A previous news release about the case is online at /ReproductiveRights/ReproductiveRights.cfm?ID=8034&c=143.

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