Sing it with me, Beatles fans: it can’t get no worse.
After yesterday’s Roe anniversary and Blog for Choice saturation, I’m sure that a lot of you might be sick of hearing about abortion. But one piece of good news out of my favorite anti-choice state of recent weeks before we find something different to talk about: a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling that Missouri must provide inmate transportation for elective abortions. In a bit of poetic justice, the decision was indeed made yesterday, on Roe’s 35th anniversary.
A Department of Corrections spokesman said the state would comply while considering appeals options.
“We will have to abide by the court order, as we have been,” said Brian Hauswirth. “That said, we have serious security concerns.”
“Jane Roe” received an abortion soon after filing the suit in October 2005. The lawsuit was then amended to represent all female inmates seeking elective abortions.
Roe left state custody in 2006, Blumenthal said.
A policy enacted in September 2005 had barred corrections officials from taking female inmates from a prison in Vandalia to St. Louis for elective abortions. Prison officials said security concerns and cost savings prompted the policy.
State officials estimated $350 for fuel and two guards.
While acknowledging that prison officials had made their point on the security question, appeals judges found other state arguments lacking. State officials had established no alternate means for inmates to obtain elective abortions, had overstated the impact on prison resources and had miscalculated the cost savings.
Pregnant inmates probably would take more trips out of the prison for prenatal care, the judges found.
But while the appeals judges affirmed U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple’s original ruling, they faulted his finding that the state’s policy violated Roe’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from “cruel and unusual punishment.”
State officials had not been indifferent to a serious medical need, the judges found.
Well, okay, I’m not exactly sure about that last part. Is the court suggesting that abortion is not a serious medical need, or that refusing to provide transportation for a medical service that an inmate must pay for out of pocket doesn’t constitute indifference? I don’t know, and at this time in the morning I probably don’t want to know.
I do, however, think that it still qualifies as good news. Of course, the “security concern” stuff is crap — as the judges said, inmates escorted out of prison all the time for health care services at hospitals, including other pregnancy-related care. It’s not about security, it’s about which medical services the state does and does not approve of.
In other exciting Missouri news, anti-choice governor Matt Blunt has announced that he will not run for a second term. As detailed here, Blunt has supported ridiculous renovation requirements for abortion clinics that aim for little more than to shut the health centers down, contracted an anti-abortion group to defend the law, created an “abortion task force” to falsely report that “abortion hurts women” and has since backed a ballot initiative which would outlaw abortion almost entirely in the state.
<pHere is his statement on the prison ruling:
In a written statement, Blunt said he was disappointed and noted that state law prohibits using tax money for abortions.
“Over the last three years, we have … enacted laws that reflect our profound respect for the inherent dignity of each and every life,” Blunt said. “I am hopeful and prayerful that we can further protect life by enhancing our laws to defend the dignity of human life.”
There’s a bullshit excuse if I’ve ever heard one. It’s bad enough that the government refuses to pay for inmate abortions when they (are supposed to) pay for all other inmate health care, not to even mention that the government also financially refuses abortion rights to women on Medicare. But to claim that the prohibition against using tax money for abortion justifies the government denying the right to abortion physically and all together is not only dishonest, it’s also ludicrous. Farewell, Mr. Blunt. You won’t be missed. I only wish that Missouri could lose you sooner.
Blunt’s announcement also puts the Republicans in a really shitty position for the election this November. Blunt was apparently expected to face a tough race against Demcoratic Attorney General Jay Nixon — who supports abortion rights — and now the Republicans don’t even have a candidate. Sweet.
For more about the (lack of) reporoductive rights for inmates, check out this great AlterNet article from last week.