Arizona Sheriff Wants Court Ruling on Abortion Transportation Policy

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

Arizona Sheriff Wants Court Ruling on Abortion Transportation Policy Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 21, 2005

Phoenix, AZ ( — An Arizona county sheriff wants a ruling from a state appeals court on whether he can refuse to take inmates for elective abortions because he doesn’t want to involve taxpayer funds in the transportation process. His request comes shortly after the Supreme Court upheld a ruling allowing a Missouri inmate to get an abortion.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Wednesday said he plans to ask a state appellate court to consider whether state law prohibiting taxpayer-funded abortions also applies to providing transportation and security for an inmate to leave prison to get one.

Current Arizona law prohibits paying for the abortion directly but says nothing about using taxpayer money to pay for helping a woman obtain an abortion.

In May 2004, Arpaio’s staff prohibited an unnamed inmate from obtaining an abortion and cited a county policy preventing them from taking her for one unless the abortion was medically necessary. After two unsuccessfl attempts, the woman received permission from a judge for the abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union in October 2004 challenged the policy and Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Barry Schneider ruled this August that the policy placed an undue burden on a woman’s "right" to an abortion.

Arpaio told the Arizona Republic, ""We’re going to appeal this up to the state Supreme Court. And if I lose it all the way, I want to get it into the federal courts … and the [U.S.] Supreme Court."

However, the Supreme Court let stand on Monday a federal judge’s and appeals court decision allowing a Missouri inmate facing the same situation to have an abrotion.

Still, Special Assistant County Attorney Barnett Lotstein told the Republic newspaper that the case is a matter of defending state law and county policy.

"This is not an abortion issue as far as we’re concerned," he said, adding, "It’s a matter of enforcing the law as written by the Legislature."