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10-15-2005, 01:28 PM
Supreme Court halts prison abortion order
Missouri officials had been ordered to transport inmate for procedure


Updated: 11:47 a.m. ET Oct. 15, 2005

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The U.S. Supreme Court late Friday temporarily blocked a federal judge’s ruling that ordered Missouri prison officials to drive a pregnant inmate to a clinic on Saturday for an abortion.

Justice Clarence Thomas, acting alone, granted the temporary stay pending a further decision by himself or the full court.

Missouri state law forbids spending tax dollars to facilitate an abortion. However, U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple ruled Thursday that the prison system was blocking the woman from exercising her right to an abortion and ordered that the woman be taken to the clinic Saturday.

An appeals court on Friday refused to stay the ruling.

The woman, whose name was not disclosed in court papers, has said she will borrow money for the abortion from friends and family but cannot afford to pay for transportation.

Use of public funds prohibited
Under a policy adopted in July, Missouri’s prison system does not provide transportation or security for inmates seeking abortions. The policy is based on a state law that prohibits the spending of public funds “for the purpose of performing or assisting an abortion not necessary to save the life of the mother.”

State officials argued that their policy is reasonable because of the costs and security risks of transporting inmates outside for procedures the officials said are not medically necessary.

The state estimated it would cost $350 plus fuel for two guards to accompany the woman on the 80-mile trip from her cell in Vandalia to a St. Louis clinic.

“It is not the prison that has imposed the burden, but the prisoner’s violation of the law that resulted in her incarceration that has imposed the burden,” Attorney General Jay Nixon’s office said.

Time grows short for legal abortion
The woman’s attorney, James Felakos of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in court papers that the woman is running out of time because she is 16 weeks to 17 weeks pregnant, and Missouri bars abortions after 22 weeks.

In court papers, the woman said she discovered she was pregnant shortly after being arrested in California in July on a Missouri parole violation. She said she tried to get an abortion in California but was transferred back to Missouri before it could be performed.

Justice Thomas handles appeals from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Missouri. He could lift the stay over the weekend, after reviewing more legal arguments.

It is not uncommon for the Supreme Court to issue temporary stays that give both sides time to file more arguments.

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10-17-2005, 07:19 PM
Court Won't Block Mo. Inmate Abortion


Monday October 17, 2005 10:01 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) - Missouri officials must let a pregnant inmate have an abortion, the Supreme Court said Monday, rejecting an appeal by anti-abortion Gov. Matt Blunt.

Missouri, which has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country, argued taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab for transporting the woman to an abortion clinic.

The unanimous order declining to intervene comes as the Senate prepares for the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, during which lawmakers are sure to press her on abortion. She was picked to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a key swing voter in abortion cases who is retiring.

``I don't think the justices have ever wanted to have this fight under the bright glare of a political spotlight,'' said Stephen Wermiel, an American University law professor.

Blunt criticized the court, saying its decision ``is highly offensive to traditional Missouri values and is contrary to state law, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from being spent to facilitate abortions.''

The Republican governor earlier had denounced what he called ``an outrageous order from an activist federal judge'' who sided with the inmate. He called a special session this fall to pass new restrictions on abortion and has promised to work with abortion foes on more laws.

The inmate, known only as Jane Roe, is at least four months pregnant and her lawyers told justices that she is anxious and depressed. She found out she was pregnant after being arrested on a parole violation and sued the state after her attempts to get an abortion were rebuffed.

The Supreme Court has never addressed the rights of pregnant inmates to get abortions, but U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple in Missouri said that the high court has made clear that women have a constitutional right to abortion. Whipple ordered the state to transport the woman on the 80-mile trip from her cell in Vandalia to a St. Louis clinic.

The Supreme Court declined to overrule Whipple, following an unusual last minute appeal from Missouri and the temporary intervention of Justice Clarence Thomas, who opposes abortion rights.

A stay from Thomas kept the inmate from having the abortion on Saturday. However, on Monday, he joined the other eight justices in rejecting the state's emergency appeal. That suggests that Thomas' stay was only a procedural maneuver to give the full court time to review arguments in the case.

The woman, who is serving a four-year sentence, is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said in court papers that she is running out of time because she is 16 weeks to 17 weeks pregnant. Missouri bars abortions after 22 weeks.

``Today, they said no more delay. It confirmed that a woman doesn't give up her right to terminate a pregnancy once she walks in a prison,'' said Talcott Camp, one of the ACLU lawyers.

She has said she will borrow money for the abortion from friends and family but could not afford transportation. The travel costs are estimated at $350 for two guards plus fuel.

Corrections spokesman John Fougere said the woman would likely be transported to the clinic in the next couple of days. He said it was up to the inmate to schedule the appointment, and the corrections department will take her at that time.

``We're a law enforcement agency. If we're compelled by the courts to do something, we're going to follow the law,'' he said.

The Supreme Court is already hearing an abortion case this fall, and has been asked by the Bush administration to review a second involving a federal ban on a type of late term abortion.

New Chief Justice John Roberts dodged questions about his views on abortion during Senate confirmation hearings, and the subject is already dominating debate about Bush's choice of his close adviser to replace O'Connor.

That backdrop may have influenced some justices, Wermiel said.

``Certainly they're conscious of what Roberts just went through. They're conscious of what Miers is going to face,'' he said.

No justice dissented from the decision, but Douglas Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor, said that may have been because things are in flux at the court following the death in September of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and the retirement announcement of O'Connor.

``A court that hadn't started the year short of personnel and in the midst of confirmation transition might well have contemplated putting a dissenting marker in place,'' he said.

The case is Crawford v. Roe, 05-A333.