Oct. 17, 2005 – The US Supreme Court issued a brief today upholding a lower court decision to force the state of Missouri to allow a pregnant prison inmate to obtain an abortion.
Just weeks from the point at which a pregnant Missouri inmate would have been too far long to receive an abortion in that state, the Justice Clarence Thomas had issued an order Friday preventing a prison inmate from traveling to obtain an abortion. The order temporarily reversed a lower federal court ruling.
Thomas ordered a temporary stay on a day-old US District Court decision that the Missouri State Department of Corrections was required to provide transportation to an inmate seeking an abortion. The new ruling reinstates that decision.
The inmate, going by Jane Roe in court papers, believes she is sixteen or seventeen weeks pregnant and is seeking funds from family and friends to pay for the cost of the abortion, leaving the state to pick up the transportation tab, the St. Louis Dispatch reports.
Missouri law bars abortions after the 22nd week and prohibits spending state money to facilitate the procedure.
Thursday, US District Court Judge Dean Whipple found the second prohibition unconstitutional, writing: "The law is now well established that federal courts have declared that a woman has a constitutional right to choose to terminate a pregnancy rather than carry the pregnancy to term."
A three-judge panel of the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Whippleâ€™s order Friday afternoon after the state defied the judgeâ€™s original order to transport Roe to a St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic Friday morning. State lawyers immediately sought and won a stay from Justice Thomas late Friday night, but it only lasted through the weekend.
Today's decision came in the form of a written brief, with no dissent noted. There was no indication of which way individual justices had decided.