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Berkeley Student Freed to Make A Choice Regarding Pregnancy

A woman charged with forgery who was unjustly sentenced to prison by a judge who wanted to prevent her from having an abortion was freed on bail yesterday pending an appeal of her case.

Yuriko Kawaguchi, a University of California at Berkeley student, was sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cleary to six months in prison for forgery, with four months already served. The sentencing came as a surprise considering Kawaguchi had no criminal history, and that crimes of forgery are usually only punished with probation.

During the trial, Kawaguchi told Cleary that she planned to abort her unwanted pregnancy. The Judge allegedly asked Kawaguchi to either agree to carry the pregnancy to term and give the child up for adoption, or spend two more months in prison, at which time it would be too late for her to have an abortion under Ohio state law.

According to court transcripts, Kawaguchi’s attorney questioned, “Your Honor, I want to understand what you are suggesting.” “I’m saying,” Cleary replied, “that she is not having a second-term abortion.”

At the time of sentencing, Cleary stated, “I’m not going to be a hypocrite. I think it worked out swell if that was her desire, to abort her child that late.”

At a news conference today, Kawaguchi said, “I was truly shocked to know that she can put me in jail because I disagree with her. I felt like I had no rights. She literally made me feel like I wasn’t human.”

The anti-abortion group Cleveland Right to Life has offered Kawaguchi food, shelter, medical care, and assistance in putting her baby up for adoption if she will bring her pregnancy to term.

Kawaguchi, feeling overwhelmed, is unsure of what she will do next. She has two weeks before her pregnancy will be at 24 weeks, at which point the state of Ohio will prohibit her from obtaining an abortion.

Sources:

Washington Post and Associated Press - October 14, 1998