Appeals Court Hears Louisiana Inmate’s Abortion Case\

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 3, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Appeals Court Hears Louisiana Inmate’s Abortion Case

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 3, 2003

New Orleans, LA ( — A federal appeals court on Wednesday heard the case of a pregnant inmate who has sued the state because it denied her the ability to get an abortion. Officials say a pro-life law prohibits them from paying for abortions or access to them.

Linda Rosenthal, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, a pro-abortion legal group, told the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals the woman’s right to an abortion was violated.

U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey threw out the woman’s case in April 2002 before it made it to trial. Victoria W., as she is named in court records, appealed and seeks unspecified damages in the suit.

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.

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.

Danna Schwab, an attorney for the parish government, told the court the woman’s rights had not been violated. "I don’t think you have a right to an abortion when you’re in jail," Schwab said.

Pro-life groups agree the pro-life law was applied correctly.

"Louisiana law recognizes that prisoners should be given medically necessary treatment," said Dorinda Bordlee an attorney with Americans United for Life. "However, pregnancy is not a disease and elective abortion is not medically necessary."

Victoria W. learned of her pregnancy upon having a medical examination when she entered the jail. Following the birth, she put the child up for adoption. She now lives in Texas.