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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Nebraska Ordered to Transport Prisoner for Abortion

Corrections officials blocked a prisoner from obtaining an abortion by citing financial rules, but a judge ruled the woman cannot be denied medical care.

LINCOLN, Neb. (CN) --- As part of a joint motion from the parties, a federal judge has ordered Nebraska corrections officials to transport a prisoner to Lincoln to obtain an abortion scheduled for Tuesday.

Prison officials rejected the woman’s request for medical treatment, citing a technicality that froze prison financial accounts for 21 days in order to stop the abortion from happening.

The woman, referred to as Jane Roe, is over 15 weeks pregnant and had been transported off prison grounds for regular appointments to confirm the pregnancy and for an ultrasound since she was incarcerated Feb. 18. She also secured funds outside her prison account to pay for the abortion.

If made to wait past Tuesday, Roe could be forced to bring the pregnancy to term against her will as the pregnancy will have progressed beyond the “pre-viability stage” by that time, according to a complaint filed on Friday that argued she was being denied due process.

In his ruling, Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bataillon found the state is “prohibited from denying plaintiff medical services.”

The restraining order Bataillon issued mandates that Roe be allowed to receive abortion counseling 24 hours before the procedure is scheduled, as required by state law, and that she be transported from the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York to Planned Parenthood’s Lincoln location to terminate her pregnancy.

“Under this order, our client can now receive the time-sensitive care she needs and is guaranteed by law,” said Scout Richters, an attorney with ACLU of Nebraska who filed the lawsuit of Roe’s behalf.

Richters added she is “optimistic” that corrections will adhere to the judicial order.

“Right now, we’re focused on making sure that’s what happens," Richters said.

As part of an agreement reached between the parties, Roe must pay the cost of the two trips to Lincoln and must obtain written assurance from Planned Parenthood that they will not bill the state for the procedure.

The state also agreed it will not disclose the identity of the woman and will transport her for any follow-up services she may require.

In a statement issued on Friday, Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, alluded to a similar recent case in Missouri. There as in Nebraska, the court ruled the woman cannot be denied safe and timely access to medical care, including abortions.

In the same statement, Richters said: “State officials are barring a woman from getting an abortion and forcing her to remain pregnant against her will. It’s wrong and unlawful. All of us, including our client, have the right to make our own decision about whether and when to become a parent.”

Along with Richters, Roe was represented by Adam J. Sipple.

Representatives of the Nebraska Correctional Services did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Categories / Civil Rights, Criminal, Health

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