ACLU Challenges Arizona Restriction on Inmates’ Abortion Rights

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is again asking an Arizona court to stop Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio from preventing female inmates from accessing abortion services. A 2005 lawsuit struck down the Sheriff’s policy of prohibiting jail officials from transporting a prisoner for an abortion without a court order. However, Arpaio allegedly began requiring women to pre-pay for security and transportation costs associated with acquiring an abortion.

The original policy that required a court order to access an abortion was challenged by an inmate in 2004. The ACLU sued and won on behalf of the women, “confirm[ing] [their] position that Arizona prison officials cannot ignore the medical needs of prisoners simply because they do not agree with the decision to end a pregnancy.” As part of the settlement, the sheriff agreed to allow female inmates access to have safe, timely, and legal abortions. The US Supreme Court rejected an appeal of the case in 2008.

Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona, said in a statement, “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….Sheriff Arpaio’s latest move to require prepayment is just another way for him to take the law into his own hands.”


ACLU Press Release 8/7/08, 7/2/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 3/24/08

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