High court turns down inmate abortion appeal

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Supreme Court turned down an appeal Monday from a county sheriff who objects to transporting jail inmates for elective abortions.

An Arizona sheriff wanted the justices to allow him to enforce a jail policy that bars transporting inmates for abortions without a court order.

Arizona courts said the policy violated the inmates' constitutional rights. A federal appeals court in Missouri recently issued a similar ruling in a case there.

The justices did not comment on their decision to leave the Arizona ruling in place.

The Arizona Court of Appeals called the Maricopa County policy an "exaggerated response" to the requirements of running a jail. It noted that the state and Pima County voluntarily transport inmates for abortion services.

The American Civil Liberties Union had sued to challenge Sheriff Joe Arpaio's policy on behalf of an unidentified woman who discovered she was pregnant shortly before being taken into custody after being sentenced. She sought an abortion but sheriff's officials refused to transport her until she obtained a court order.

State law prohibits spending public money for an abortion unless needed to save a woman's life. The appeals court said no county spending for the actual abortion was at issue in the case.

The county routinely and safely transports many inmates to and from a variety of locations for medical services and other purposes, the court said. Arpaio gave no indication that transporting women for abortions posed security problems, the court said.

The case is Arpaio v. Doe, 07-839.