Appeals Court Will Hear Louisiana Inmate’s Abortion Case
by Steven Ertelt
August 19, 2003
New Orleans, LA (LifeNews.com) — A federal appeals court will hear a lawsuit concerning a pregnant inmate who was denied an abortion while in a local jail. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case in September.
The woman, known as Victoria W. in court documents. U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey threw out her case in April 2002 before it made it to trial. She seeks unspecified damages in the suit.
She contends that her "right" to an abortion was denied when Terrebonne Parish Jail officials required her to hire an attorney and get a legal order authorizing the jail to release her to have an abortion. An attorney for the jail said a court order was needed because the jail does not have the authority to give an inmate permission to leave.
Louisiana law also prohibits state funds from being used to pay for abortions, unless medically necessary, and state money would have had to be used to transport to woman to an abortion facility.
When Victoria W. was released from jail in October 1999 after serving a term for battery, she was 25 weeks pregnant and past the cutoff for legal abortions in Louisiana. She received free prenatal care during the time she was in jail.
The New York-based Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, a pro-abortion legal firm, is representing the woman. Attorneys for the group say state funds would not have been used to pay for the abortion itself, but to move the woman.
CRLP also said the woman’s abortion was "medically necessary" because it claims abortion is safer than childbirth.
However, pro-life attorney Dorinda Bordlee of Americans United for Life, says that argument has no merit.
CRLP "failed in its attempt to reinterpret ‘medically necessary’ abortions to be any desired abortion. The court simply applied clear Louisiana law," Bordlee said of the original decision to dismiss the case.
Had pro-life judicial nominee Priscilla Owen been confirmed by the U.S. Senate for the 5th Circuit Appeals Court, she would be on the court and able to hear the case. She agreed to uphold Texas’ law requiring parental notification for an abortion.