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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Tony Rothert, (314) 361-2111 ??

July 18, 2006-- ST LOUIS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri today applauded a decision by a district court in Missouri allowing women prisoners in that state to access timely, safe, and legal abortion care.

“Prison officials can no longer ignore the medical needs of women prisoners seeking abortions,” said Brenda Jones, executive director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “We applaud the court for recognizing that women do not give up their right to abortion care when they enter prison.”?

For more than seven weeks in 2005, prison officials went to extreme lengths to deny a woman prisoner access to abortion care, and even went as far as appealing her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 17th, 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, in October 2005, the ACLU asked the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri to make the case a class action lawsuit on behalf of all incarcerated pregnant women seeking access to abortion 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.?

“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.” ?

Today’s case is Roe v. Crawford, et al., No. 05-4333-CV-C-DW. Lawyers on the case include Diane 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.