Federal Court Protects Abortion Access for Incarcerated Women in Missouri

This week, a federal appeals court ruled that the state of Missouri must provide transportation for inmates who want to obtain abortion care.

In 2005, prison officials in Missouri went to extreme lengths to deny a woman prisoner abortion care. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a court to require the prison to transport the woman for an abortion as they would for all other serious medical needs. When the court ruled that the prison must transport the woman to a nearby health care facility, the state unsuccessfully asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene; the woman received the care she needed. The American Civil Liberties Union then brought a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all incarcerated pregnant women in Missouri seeking abortions.

“Today’s decision is consistent with rulings from across the country that women prisoners do not lose their reproductive rights once they are incarcerated,” said Diana Kasdan, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Prison officials must ensure that women have access to the full spectrum of pregnancy-related care, including abortion.”

Since Missouri law prohibits the use of state tax money to pay for abortions, the prisoner is still responsible for the cost of the procedure. A similar case was decided in Arizona last year.

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