ACLU Applauds Decision Allowing Women Prisoners in Missouri to Access Abortion Care

July 18, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

ST. LOUIS, MO - The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded a decision by a district court in Missouri allowing women prisoners in the state to access timely, safe, and legal abortion care.   

“Prison officials can no longer ignore the medical needs of women prisoners seeking abortions,” said Diana Kasdan, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.  “We applaud the court for recognizing that women do not give up their right to abortion care when they enter prison.”

In 2005, prison officials went to extreme lengths to deny a woman prisoner access to abortion care.  In early October the ACLU stepped in, asking a court to require prison officials to transport the prisoner for an abortion.  After losing in lower courts, the state appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.  At the ACLU’s urging, the Supreme Court refused to block the lower court’s decision requiring the state to transport the woman to a nearby health care facility for an abortion.

Following this decision, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted the ACLU’s request to make the case a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all incarcerated pregnant women seeking access to abortion care.

“Missouri’s total ban on abortion for prisoners ran contrary to its own long-standing policy and posed an absolute bar on a woman’s right to abortion care,” said Anthony Rothert, Legal Director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.  “Moreover, its refusal stood in stark contrast to its policy to provide women prisoners with all other pregnancy-related health care.”

According to today’s decision, women prisoners do not lose their constitutional right to abortion care.  And as with all other serious medical needs, including abortion, prison officials must transport prisoners offsite for treatment if necessary.

Today’s case is Roe v. Crawford, et al., No. 05-4333-CV-C-DW.  Lawyers on the case include Kasdan, Chakshu Patel, Talcott Camp, and Jennifer Nevins of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, and Thomas M. Blumenthal and James G. Felakos, cooperating counsel for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.

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