Thursday, August 10, 2000

Judge: Inmate can get abortion

County policy doesn't allow procedure

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A federal judge gave a pregnant inmate permission to get an abortion Wednesday, despite a Hamilton County policy that does not allow prisoners access to abortion services.

        Judge Susan Dlott ruled that the inmate's constitutional rights would be violated if the county delayed or denied her permission to get a safe abortion.

        The inmate, who sued the county Wednesday, was not identified by the court.

        Her attorney, Alphonse Gerhardstein, said his client is 12 weeks' pregnant. She is being held at a minimum security drug treatment facility on Vine Street.

        “It's wrong that a woman would have to file a lawsuit to get medical services that are constitutionally protected,” Mr. Gerhardstein said.

        The suit is the second of its kind filed during the past year in U.S. District Court.

        The first case ended when Judge Dlott gave another inmate permission to get an abortion, concluding that to do otherwise would cause the woman “irreparable harm.”

        County attorneys have argued that inmates do not have a right to an abortion because it is an “elective procedure.”

        Sheriff Simon L. Leis, who runs the jails, could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

        Although the judge's ruling Wednesday allowed the woman to get an abortion, Mr. Gerhardstein said his client's case is not over yet.

        Later this year, the judge will hear more arguments on the issue from both sides. Mr. Gerhardstein wants the judge to issue an injunction that would permanently change the county's policy.

        “We're seeking an injunction against the policy of not allowing women to receive abortion services,” he said.

        The lawsuit claims the policy shows “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.”


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