For Immediate Release
"America's Toughest Sheriff" Agrees To Stop Requiring Court Orders For Abortions But Creates New Obstacle
ACLU Asks Court To Block Arpaio's Bait and Switch
PHOENIX, AZ - The American Civil Liberties Union late yesterday asked an
Arizona court to prevent Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio from requiring
inmates to prepay transportation costs before they can obtain an abortion.
As part of a partial settlement in an ACLU lawsuit involving the right of
women prisoners to obtain timely, safe and legal abortions, Arpaio agreed to
follow a 2005 court order prohibiting Maricopa County correctional facilities
from requiring inmates to obtain a court order before an abortion. However, in
the course of settlement negotiations, Arpaio decided inmates must prepay
transportation and security costs associated with obtaining the procedure.
"After defying court rulings that prison officials cannot require women
prisoners to obtain a court order before an abortion, Sherriff Arpaio finally
agreed to abide by the courts; however, he put up yet another obstacle to care,"
said Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom
Project. "Arpaio's new requirement that inmates must pay for transportation
costs upfront amounts to a bait and switch. It's time for Sherriff Arpaio to
stop playing games with women's health."
In May 2004, on behalf of a woman inmate seeking an abortion, the ACLU
challenged an unwritten Maricopa County Jail policy that required inmates to
obtain a court order before officials would transport for abortion care.
The Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County, struck down the unwritten policy
in August 2005, holding that it violated women's reproductive rights and served
"no legitimate penological purpose." The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld
that decision; both the Arizona and the United States Supreme courts refused to
hear the case.
Regardless of these rulings, Maricopa County Jail continued to require women
to obtain a court order before an abortion, and in August 2008, the ACLU asked
the court to hold Arpaio in contempt. In the course of settlement negotiations
in that case, Arpaio shifted tactics and began insisting that inmates who seek
abortions must pay upfront for transportation and security costs. Inmates
requiring transportation for other medical care are not charged for transport
either before or after receiving services.
"The courts have already confirmed our position that Arizona prison officials
cannot put up roadblocks to abortion care simply because they do not agree with
the decision to end a pregnancy," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive
Director of the ACLU of Arizona. "Sheriff Arpaio's latest move to require
prepayment is just another way for him to take the law into his own hands."
In last week's partial settlement, Arpaio agreed to notify all employees and
include information in the Rules and Regulations for Inmates that a court order
is not required for a pregnant inmate to obtain abortion care.
The case is Doe v. Arpaio, CV2004-009286. Lawyers on the case include
Amiri and Talcott Camp with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, and Dan
Pochoda of the ACLU of Arizona.
To read the brief: www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/abortion/40106lgl20090701.html
To read last week's partial settlement: www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/abortion/40091lgl20090619.html
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.