Supreme Court Stays Federal Judge’s Decision to Allow Inmate’s Abortion

The Supreme Court today acknowledged the right of a Missouri inmate to have an abortion, accepting the ruling of a federal judge who had ordered Missouri prison officials to provide transportation for the woman. The judge, US District Judge Dean Whipple, had overruled the state’s decision to refuse the woman transportation because of a new policy that makes transportation illegal except in cases in which an abortion is medically necessary, reports the Associated Press.

An appeals court on the Eighth Circuit had refused Missouri’s request to overturn the judge’s decision. The state then appealed to the US Supreme Court and Justice Clarence Thomas, who is responsible for hearing motions from the Eighth Circuit, stayed the state’s request temporarily on Friday, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who provided the woman with a lawyer. The entire Supreme Court looked at the case today to decide whether or not to stay Missouri’s request permanently and chose not to, instead affirming the inmate’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

While, according to the Washington Post, the Supreme Court does not release vote counts for decisions on stays granted by lower courts and these decisions do not form precedents, no dissents were noted. Deputy Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project Talcot Camp stated that “women do not give up the right to terminate a pregnancy when they enter prison any more than they give up the right to carry a pregnancy to term, and we are glad the Court agreed.”


ACLU press statement 10/17/05; AP 10/14/05; 10/17/05; Washington Post 10/17/05

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