Thursday, January 11, 2001

Judge approves inmate abortions

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A federal judge ruled Wednesday that pregnant inmates can get abortions while serving their sentences in Hamilton County's jails.

        Judge Susan Dlott said the county's policy of barring inmate abortions violated the prisoners' constitutional rights.

        Her ruling ends a case that began last summer when an inmate sued the county in Cincinnati's U.S. District Court so she could terminate her pregnancy after 12 weeks.

        Judge Dlott granted the inmate's request and agreed to consider the fate of the county's policy at a later date.

        Her decision Wednesday effectively throws out the policy, which regarded abortion as an elective procedure that should not be made available to prisoners.

        The inmate's attorney, Al phonse Gerhardstein, had argued in court that a right to an abortion is protected by the U.S. Constitution and should be preserved, even when the woman is locked up.

        The inmate's lawsuit claimed the county's policy showed “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.”

        Sheriff Simon L. Leis, who runs the jails, said he will follow the judge's order.

        “I morally disagree with the decision,” Sheriff Leis said in a statement. “However, I will abide by the law.”

        In her decision, Judge Dlott said the sheriff's personal feelings about abortion should not determine whether a female inmate can get one.

        “The sheriff might find such a right morally repugnant,” the judge wrote in her decision. “Nevertheless ... ours is a government of laws, not of men.”


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