Former Inmate Sues Prison for $1.5 Million Because She Couldn’t Abort Her Baby

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jan 12, 2017   |   12:58PM   |   Nashville, Tennessee

A Tennessee woman who wanted to abort her unborn child while in jail filed a lawsuit against a local sheriff recently after he refused to help her do so, The Tennessean reports.

Kei’Choura Cathey, 29, gave birth to her child in April after being released from jail too late to have an abortion, according to the report.

In the lawsuit filed on Dec. 29, she claims it was illegal for Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland to have denied her access to an abortion while she was in jail. According to the lawsuit, Rowland refused to help her access an abortion because her life was not in danger and her pregnancy was not the result of rape or incest.

The lawsuit claims the sheriff’s alleged denial inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on Cathey. She is seeking $1.5 million in damages, the report states.

In July 2015, Cathey was arrested on charges of robbery and murder conspiracy, according to the report. After spending a few weeks in jail, Cathey found out she was pregnant and asked to have an abortion, according to her lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, she alleges Sheriff Rowland said he would not fund the abortion or transportation to the abortion facility unless it was medically necessary to save her life, or if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

Cathey posted bond in January 2016, but by that time, her unborn child was too far along to be aborted, according to the report.

In December, LifeNews reported a similar lawsuit is underway in Indiana after a former inmate said she was denied access to an abortion while in prison.

While incarcerated, “Jane Doe” said she told the prison that she wanted an abortion, but she claims that they did not take her to an abortion facility until it was too late.

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Doe said “she was told she would need to prepay $1,000 for the cost of transportation and guards to travel to an abortion provider, in addition to the cost of the procedure itself,” according to the report.

She carried the baby to term and later gave birth to the baby, reports.

In similar cases, prisons cited the liabilities associated with transporting the prisoner to the abortion facility, the Washington Post reports. Other concerns included prisoner escape, lost prison guard salaries, and risk of injury whether to the prisoner or prison employees. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio described the taxpayer funding involved in transporting prisoners to facilities for abortions, and compensating staff for lost time as concerns, previously reported.

In the 1977 Maher v. Roe case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state funding of abortions is not mandatory but optional, and that state funding may be used to encourage childbirth rather than abortion. This ruling, however, was not directly related to inmates’ situations.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Brigitte Amiri told The Tennessean courts usually rule that inmates have a right to access abortion, but inmates’ situations vary and the U.S. Supreme Court never has ruled on the matter.

“Because different cases raise different facts, it’s a bit of a patchwork,” Amiri said.