Appeals Court: Louisiana Inmate Can’t Get Tax-Funded Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 2, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Appeals Court: Louisiana Inmate Can’t Get Tax-Funded Abortion

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 2, 2004

New Orleans, LA ( — A federal appeals court on Friday ruled that a Louisiana woman’s rights were not violated because she was prohibited from obtaining an abortion that wasn’t "medically necessary." The state only pays for abortions in such rare cases.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the prison’s policy of requiring a court order for elected medical procedures such as abortion.

"It is undisputed that the abortion was not medically necessary," the court wrote, according to an Associated Press report.

The court also said this was the first request by an inmate for an abortion — meaning the prison system could not have had an unconstitutional policy regarding abortions in place before, as advocate advocates alleged.

William Rittenberg, an attorney for the woman seeking the abortion did not say whether he will file an appeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not previously ruled on a similar case.

The woman is 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, represented her in the case.

Pro-life life attorney Dorinda Bordlee of Americans United for Life, says the court’s decision is a good one.

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.