PHOENIX (CN) - "America's Toughest Sheriff" Joe Arpaio has been sued again, on charges of unconstitutionally restricting the rights of inmates to have abortions. Inmates say Arpaio charges up to $600, in advance, for transportation and security to have an abortion, but does not charge at all for transportation for other medical treatments, for court appearances, funerals or to visit a dying relative.
Inmates on Tuesday will ask a Maricopa County Court judge for summary judgment and enforcement of a ruling that allows prisoners "timely, safe and legal abortion care," and to prohibit Arpaio from charging them up to $600, in advance, for transportation and security for the operation.
Arpaio demands that inmates who seek a first-trimester abortion pay a $300 deposit for security and transportation, and inmates seeking a second-trimester abortion to pay a $600 deposit.
If any of the money is left, Arpaio allegedly returns it, but if "the procedure takes longer than expected ... the inmate would have to pay defendants any amount incurred above the deposit amount," according to the complaint.
Represented by the ACLU, inmates say the prepayment is "designed to obstruct the inmate's access to abortion care" and pushes women "further into their pregnancies" and at a greater risk for complications. The procedure becomes more expensive as a woman's pregnancy progresses.
The ACLU claims Arpaio is violating a 2005 court order that prohibits Maricopa County from requiring inmates to obtain a court order to be transported for an abortion. Although the county may seek reimbursement for transportation costs, it "cannot now obstruct access to abortion care by conditioning access on upfront payment of transport costs," the complaint states.
Arpaio, who calls himself America's Toughest Sheriff, has been sued at least 73 times since 2005, mostly on civil rights charges. He has filed at least nine lawsuits himself in that time, five of them against his bosses, the Maricopa County Commission.
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