Court Upholds Missouri Inmates’ Abortion Rights

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – The Missouri Department of Corrections must provide transportation to clinics for inmates seeking abortions, the 8th Circuit ruled. The court upheld a ruling against MDC officials in a class action filed by female inmates challenging the department’s policy of banning transportation for elective, non-therapeutic abortions.

     In September 2005, the MDC restricted its policy of providing transportation to inmates seeking abortions to only the cases where abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life, and the abortion has been approved by the medical director in consultation with the regional medical director.
     The MDC cited security and financial reasons as the motivating factors for its policy change.
     The appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling for the Jane Roe plaintiff, but disagreed with its Eighth Amendment analysis. The appeals court ruled that an elective, non-therapeutic abortion does not constitute a “serious medical need,” as the district court concluded, and the MDC’s refusal to provide inmates with access to such abortions “does not rise to the level of deliberate indifference to constitute an Eighth Amendment violation.”
     However, the circuit found the policy invalid under the plaintiff’s 14th Amendment right to terminate her pregnancy. See ruling.

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