Inmate Who Sued Prison for $1.5 Million Because She Couldn’t Abort Her Baby Loses Her Case

State   Micaiah Bilger   May 19, 2017   |   11:09AM    Nashville, TN

A federal judge dismissed a Tennessee woman’s lawsuit this month that alleged she was wrongfully denied an abortion while she was in jail, according to The Tennessean.

Kei’Choura Cathey, 29, of Tennessee, said she gave birth to her child in April 2016 after being released from jail too late to have an abortion.

In the lawsuit filed on Dec. 29, she claimed it was illegal for Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland to have denied her access to an abortion while she was in jail. According to the lawsuit, Rowland refused to help her access an abortion because her life was not in danger and her pregnancy was not the result of rape or incest. She asked to be awarded $1.5 million in damages.

Earlier this month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe B. Brown dismissed Cathey’s case, saying she had waited too long to file the lawsuit and the statute of limitations had run out, according to the report.

Here’s more from the report:

The order ends the federal case against Maury County and its sheriff, Bucky Rowland. The judge in his ruling allowed Cathey to pursue a claim of negligence against the county in a state court, but that also could be subject to the statute of limitations, according to Daniel Murphy, Maury County attorney.

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Murphy said the judge made the right decision according to law.

In July 2015, Cathey was arrested on charges of robbery and murder conspiracy, according to the report. After spending a few weeks in jail, Cathey found out she was pregnant and asked to have an abortion, according to her lawsuit. Cathey posted bond in January 2016, but by that time, her unborn child was too far along to be aborted, according to the report.

In December, LifeNews reported a similar lawsuit was filed in Indiana after a former inmate said she was denied access to an abortion while in prison.

While incarcerated, “Jane Doe” said she told the prison that she wanted an abortion, but she claims that they did not take her to an abortion facility until it was too late.

Doe said “she was told she would need to prepay $1,000 for the cost of transportation and guards to travel to an abortion provider, in addition to the cost of the procedure itself,” according to the report.

She also carried her baby to term and gave birth, CourthouseNews.com reports.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Brigitte Amiri told The Tennessean courts usually rule that inmates have a right to access abortion, but inmates’ situations vary and the U.S. Supreme Court never has ruled on the matter.

“Because different cases raise different facts, it’s a bit of a patchwork,” Amiri said.

In the 1977 Maher v. Roe case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state funding of abortions is not mandatory and that state funding may be used to encourage childbirth rather than abortion. This ruling, however, was not directly related to inmates’ situations.