Abortion decision

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Earlier this year, the Missouri Department of Corrections changed a policy which required the department to provide transportation to a clinic for inmates seeking an abortion. The new policy, which went into effect Sept. 5, restricted help in obtaining an abortion to female inmates whose lives or health were endangered.

The policy is in line with a law that prohibits spending state funds to perform or assist with an abortion unless the woman's life is at risk.

U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple ruled that the inmate has a right to an abortion and ordered the state to take her on the 80-mile trip to a clinic in St. Louis. When the state appealed to the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas stayed Whipple's order temporarily, preventing the abortion from taking place last Saturday. But the following Monday, Thomas and the court's eight other justices decided to reject Missouri's emergency appeal.

The woman, referred to in court papers only as Jane Roe, is reported to be 16 to 17 weeks pregnant. Missouri does not allow abortions past the 22nd week. She reportedly found out she was pregnant after being arrested in California on a Missouri parole violation. The inmate said she attempted to have the abortion performed in California but was sent back to Missouri first.

She has said she will borrow money for the abortion itself but could not afford the $350 transportation cost, which pays for two guards and fuel. On Thursday, the woman terminated her pregnancy in St. Louis.

Gov. Matt Blunt says he will continue to defend the Department of Corrections policy.

"The governor remains disappointed in the court actions that compelled the state's involvement," said a spokesman.

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