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Friday, January 25, 2008

Elective abortion not a ‘serious medical need’

In an interesting decision earlier this week, the 8th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and inhumane punishment does not require a correctional facility to provide an inmate with access to an elective, nontherapeutic abortion.

Notably, however, the 8th Circuit did affirm the trial judge’s ruling that the inmate should be provided transportation for the procedure under relevant caselaw.

In Roe v. Crawford, et al., the plaintiff, an inmate in the Missouri Department of Corrections, requested but was denied transportation for an elective abortion. She then challenged the legality of the MDC’s policy against providing transportation for inmates wanting to terminate their pregnancies.

A federal District Court judge in Missouri found that the policy violated the woman’s Eighth Amendment rights because the desire for an elective abortion constitutes a serious medical need to which the correctional facility was deliberately indifferent.

The 8th Circuit disagreed, finding that in light of recent developments of the law, “an elective, non-therapeutic abortion does not constitute a serious medical need,” and a prison institution’s refusal to provide an inmate with access to the procedure “does not rise to the level of deliberate indifference” to be an Eighth Amendment violation.

Essentially, the decision is both a victory and a defeat for the pro-life and pro-choice folks. Ultimately, the court did clear the way for the inmate to get the abortion, however, so the pro-choice side in particular is touting it as a major win.

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