Incarcerated Woman Wins Right to Abortion in Nebraska

Illustration for article titled Incarcerated Woman Wins Right to Abortion in Nebraska
Image: Nati Harnik File (AP)

An incarcerated person in Nebraska has won the right to an abortion after suing a state women’s correctional facility, claiming that the warden used prison bureaucracy to thwart her legal right to an abortion.

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The woman, named in the suit as Jane Roe, became pregnant in the weeks before beginning her sentence, which began in February. Family offered to pay for her abortion, the lawsuit claims, but the warden denied the procedure, “citing a prison policy that all large amounts of money deposited in an inmate’s cash account — such as the money for the abortion — is frozen for 21 days,” according to The Grand Island Independent. The freeze would have put her further along in her pregnancy that is allowed by law for abortion, which would have forced Roe to remain pregnant, a move the woman’s mother said she suspects was by design:

“The mother said prison officials have been “dragging their feet and wanting to shift the request to someone else’s desk” since her daughter filed a grievance, on March 25 or 26, requesting the procedure,” The Independent reports.

But on Monday, just one day before the cutoff for a legal abortion, a judge signed off on Roe’s request, according to a press release by the ACLU:

“Almost immediately after the filing, state officials reversed course and agreed to enter a court order requiring prison staff to transport the woman for an abortion and any necessary follow-up appointments. A U.S. District Court judge signed the order on Monday, April 12.”

The lawsuit should be dismissed within the week. And while Nebraska state regulations label abortions as “not medically necessary,” the Supreme Court has upheld an incarcerated person’s right to abortion as recently as 2005. “Prisons and jails should remember that abortion is a right, including for those who are incarcerated,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project in the statement. And with bad abortion news rolling in from everywhere in the country nearly daily, it’s mildly heartening to hear, every so often, of a pregnant person succeeding in ensuring that right is honored.

DISCUSSION

This is a huge deal and an important issue that I hadn’t heard about yet, and I work in abortion care. Thank you for covering this Emily!