Arizona Sheriff Joseph Arpaio Accused of Violating Ruling in Prisoner Abortions
by Steven Ertelt
August 7, 2008
Phoenix, AZ (LifeNews.com) — Sheriff Joseph Arpaio has made a name for himself nationwide with his tough tactics on prisoners serving in county jails in Phoenix, Arizona. Now, a pro-abortion law firm is accusing him of violating a court order requiring him to allow pregnant women to get abortions.
Arpaio has an unwritten policy of forbidding abortions because taxpayers would have to fund the staff time and transportation costs associated with them.
He maintained that violated a state law prohibiting taxpayer-funded abortions, but the Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County, struck down the policy in a August 2005 decision.
"I don’t run a taxi service from jail to an abortion clinic and back," Arpaio, who is pro-life, told the Associated Press at the time. "Where do you draw the line?"
The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld that decision and both the Arizona and U.S. Supreme Courts refused to take the case.
Now, the pro-abortion ACLU contends Arpaio is violating that decision by again preventing women from getting abortions with help from county prison officials.
In a statement LifeNews.com obtained, ACLU staff attorney Brigitte Amiri said her group filed a motion yesterday to hold Arpaio in contempt for allegedly disobeying the court order.
The motion asks the court to provide additional safeguards for women prisoners seeking abortions.
"Arizona courts have clearly ruled that prison officials cannot stand in the way of the medical needs of women prisoners," Amiri said. "It’s regrettable that we need to take extra steps to ensure that Sheriff Arpaio follows the law."
The ACLU claims an unnamed woman wanted an abortion in May and that Sheriff Arpaio’s Deputy Chief, John McIntyre, did not properly inform her that she could get an abortion. The woman reportedly waited four weeks to get an abortion while ACLU staff intervened on her behalf.
The motion asks the court to require the jail to post signs in both English and Spanish informing prisoners of their right to be transported. In addition, all employees would be required to sign a statement acknowledging that they have been informed of the law.
Sheriff Arpaio’s office has not returned a LifeNews.com request for comment.
He has previously said fewer than three women a year request an abortion.
This isn’t the first time abortion advocates have fought to enable women in prison to have abortions.
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.
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, 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.
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