ACLU-EM APPLAUDS U.S. SUPREME COURT DECISION ALLOWING INMATE ACCESS TO MEDICAL SERVICES

ACLU-EM Attorneys Representing “Jane Roe” Pleased By Ruling

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oct. 17, 2005

ST. LOUIS – The American Civil Liberties of Eastern Missouri (ACLU-EM) applauds a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that allows our client, referred to as “Jane Roe” in legal filings, access to reproductive healthcare. “Roe” is seeking access to medical services to terminate her pregnancy.

Jane Roe said to her lawyers today: “This process has been very stressful. Tell everyone that’s supporting me that I appreciate from the bottom of my heart all their support. I ask that everyone work to change these laws so that other people don’t have to go through what I have. I hope my case will protect other people here (at Vandalia)”

“We are pleased the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that the stay should not remain in place,” said Thomas Blumenthal, one of the attorneys representing the woman for the ACLU-EM. “The only matter which was important to us was to protect the constitutional rights of ‘Ms. Roe.’ She now has the opportunity to control her own medical well-being.”

“The decision to overturn the stay is a major victory for ‘Jane Roe’ and for women everywhere in Missouri,” said Brenda Jones, executive director for the ACLU-EM. “This was the correct decision by the Court. Today’s ruling follows long-established precedent that the Constitution protects the rights of all women, including those in prison, to access reproductive healthcare.”

A federal district court in Missouri on Oct. 13 ordered the state to transfer the inmate to a healthcare facility for medical services. However, rather than comply with that ruling, the Missouri Attorney General’s office asked the district court, and then the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, for an order suspending that ruling.

For weeks, the state of Missouri went to extreme lengths to deny this woman access to medical care. The state’s actions in this case were contrary to Missouri’s own long-standing policy when it comes to inmates’ access to reproductive healthcare, policies previously recognized in Missouri’s courts, in the federal prison system, and in all the state prison systems we know of.

Both the district court and a unanimous panel of the Eighth Circuit denied the state’s request for an order suspending the ruling. The state then filed papers with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is assigned to hear such motions from the Eighth Circuit. He granted a temporary suspension of the ruling on Oct. 14, and then referred the matter to the full Court. Today, the full Court voted to deny the state’s request not to comply with the district court’s original ruling.

“We were confident that when either Justice Thomas or the full court thoroughly reviewed the matter that they would recognize there were such narrow grounds upon which a stay could be entered that they would realize this was not an appropriate case for the exercise of their jurisdiction,” said ACLU-EM Staff Attorney James Felakos.

A ruling from the Court denying inmates access to specific reproductive healthcare services would have amounted to an outright ban on abortion for prisoners. Today’s ruling follows long-established precedent that the Constitution protects the right of all women, including those in prison, to access abortion.