Tennessee Inmate Granted Request to Leave Jail for an Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 21, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Tennessee Inmate Granted Request to Leave Jail for an Abortion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 21, 2005

Knoxville, TN (LifeNews.com) — A woman who is in a Tennessee jail pending a trial on a charge of possessing and selling drugs has been granted a request to leave prison to have an abortion. Federal District Court Magistrate Bruce Guyton approved the request of the unnamed female inmate who was indicted last month on drug conspiracy charges related to crack cocaine.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that discussions about the request were held with attorneys for the inmate and the county in the judge’s chambers.

According to the attorney for the inmate, Kevin Angel, Heather Natasha Marie Whitt found out she was pregnant shortly after her incarceration. He requested a furlough for her claiming the Whitt had a high risk pregnancy and would suffer health issues if she did not have the abortion.

The county government is not paying for the abortion, but court records do not reveal who will pay for it.

Whitt is scheduled to be freed Thursday for the abortion, which is planned for Friday, but must return to prison on September 27.

Guyton told Whitt she shouldn’t try to run away during her time away from prison.

"Obviously, Ms. Whitt, if you feel like you are in a condition to run away and you try to run away, the (U.S.) Marshals (Service) will find you straightaway," Guyton said.

Citing federal medical privacy laws, Judge Guyton sealed the order for the furlough.

According to the Knoxville newspaper, Whitt is accused along with Benjamin Gary of selling crack cocaine in Anderson County from January 2003 to February 2005.

In Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio lost a case on preventing a woman in his prison system from obtaining an abortion. Arpaio said it would be an improper use of taxpayer money to take the woman for an abortion.

Last year, a federal appeals court heard the case of a pregnant Louisiana inmate who sued the state because it denied her the ability to get an abortion. There, county officials said a law prohibited taxpayer-funding of abortions required the county to prohibit women from being transported for abortions.

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, a pro-life attorney. "However, pregnancy is not a disease and elective abortion is not medically necessary."

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals eventually sided with the state.