The full court vacated an order that Justice Clarence Thomas had issued late last Friday that prevented a Missouri prison inmate from obtaining an abortion, to which a federal district judge had found she had a constitutional right.
The inmate, identified in court papers only as Jane Roe, was pregnant when she was sent to the women's prison in Vandalia, Mo., on a parole violation and had been trying for seven weeks to obtain an abortion. She is now 17 weeks pregnant. She plans to pay for the procedure herself but, as an inmate, needs the prison to arrange transportation to a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, 80 miles away.
Under a policy it adopted last year, the Missouri Department of Corrections will not transport inmates for abortions that it deems not medically necessary. Last Thursday, after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on the inmate's behalf, Judge H. Dean Whipple of Federal District Court in Kansas City ordered the state to provide the abortion. Without access to abortion, the inmate "will suffer irreparable harm," he said.
The state then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in St. Louis, which refused to grant a stay of Judge Whipple's order. The state next turned to Justice Thomas, who has administrative jurisdiction over the Eighth Circuit.
In the appeal, Crawford v. Roe, No. 05A333, Attorney General Jay Nixon acknowledged that a state may not impose an "undue burden" on the right to abortion. But in this case, he said, "it is not the prison that has imposed the burden, but the prisoner's violation of the law that resulted in her incarceration that has imposed the burden." The inmate was jailed for a parole violation.
Justice Thomas gave no reason for granting the stay on Friday night, and the full court, to which he then referred the case, gave no reason for vacating it. Neither he nor any other member of the court indicated a dissent from the order the court issued today.
Monday, October 17, 2005
SUPREMES CLEAR WAY FOR MISSOURI ABORTION
Just the latest -- and last -- twist in this case. From The New York Times:
If Democrat Jay Nixon thinks he's getting into the governor's mansion by fighting against a woman's right to choose, he's in for a rude surprise come November 2008.