Missouri Must Take Pregnant Prisoners for Abortions at Taxpayer Expense
by Steven Ertelt
January 22, 2008
Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that Missouri correctional facilities must take pregnant prisoners for elective abortions at taxpayer expense. The ruling comes despite state law prohibiting the state from paying for abortions with public funds.
The state appealed a judge’s decision last year forcing it to transport pregnant prisoners to get abortions.
But, Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the lower court’s decision.
There is no word yet on whether the state will appeal the decision to the full appellate court or the Supreme Court.
The decision upholds a ruling U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple issued in 2006 saying that not only can pregnant inmates get abortions, but the state must use taxpayer-funded transportation to get them to the abortion center.
The state said the policy against transporting inmates for abortions was based on a 1986 state law prohibiting the use of state-funded facilities or employees in assisting abortions unless it’s needed to save the pregnant woman’s life.
Whipple rejected Attorney General Jay Nixon argument in his July 2006 ruling saying "This case simply does not concern state subsidization of abortion services."
In October 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously said Missouri had to allow one unnamed inmate to get an abortion.
Responding to that decision, the pro-abortion American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of all pregnant inmates who may seek an abortion and Judge Whipple ruled in response.
Tony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Unions St. Louis office, told AP he’s glad the federal appeals court sided with the pro-abortion group.
"The court recognized that the right to elect to have an abortion survives incarceration," he said. "This was about providing women with the opportunity to exercise their choice even though they were incarcerated."
The ACLU has estimated that about 35-50 women are pregnant in the Missouri prison system at any given time. There were two other women who had abortions after the high court ruling and another woman was denied an abortion.
Gov. Matt Blunt opposed the ruling and said he wanted Nixon to file an appeal.
"This ruling violates our traditional Missouri values and is an affront to everyone that values the sanctity of human life," Blunt said in a written statement. "I urge the attorney general to fight this ruling that prevents the state of Missouri from protecting innocent human life."
In the case that eventually reached the Supreme Court, Missouri Department of Corrections officials contended that taking the woman to a local St. Louis abortion facility would violate the state law.
Taking prisoners to abortion facilities has been in issue in other states as well.
In 2006, an Arizona county sheriff requested 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.
The Arizona Supreme Court eventually sided with the appeals court in September.
Also that year, a woman in a Tennessee jail pending a trial on a charge of possessing and selling drugs was granted a request to leave prison to have an abortion. Federal District Court Magistrate Bruce Guyton approved the request.
The latest Missouri case is Roe v. Crawford, et al., No. 05-4333-CV-C-DW.