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ACLU questions Parker County's treatment of inmate seeking abortion

Fort Worth Star Telegram

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has questioned whether Parker County officials infringed on the constitutional rights of female prisoners after the county declined to take an inmate to a medical facility for an abortion.

In a May 18 letter to Parker County officials, the ACLU said that a female prisoner was recently denied transportation outside the jail for the procedure. The group says that Parker County should develop a policy to ensure that no other inmates' constitutional rights are violated in the future.

Lisa Graybill, an attorney for the ACLU, wrote that "pregnant women do not lose their Fourteenth Amendment right to have an abortion as a result of incarceration."

Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said he "was a little bit flabbergasted" by the ACLU letter and doesn't believe his department was required to help her obtain an abortion.

"It was her right and on any given day she could have made bond and gone on her way," Fowler said " ... My personal feeling is I don't feel like the taxpayers of Parker County would think much of their sheriff spending taxpayer money to take people to abortion clinics. I don't think they wouldn't want me to even entertain that notion."
John Forrest, the county attorney, said he would explore the issue but he doesn't anticipate writing any policies as requested by the ACLU. Forrest said Parker County follows the law.

Parker County officials also say the issue is moot because the woman, whose case was adjudicated shortly after she made the request, is no longer in jail.
It also is not clear whether the woman, whose identity is not being released, had an abortion or not, Graybill said.

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