Fifth Circuit Set to Hear Case Involving Prison Inmate Forced to Carry Pregnancy to Term
On Wednesday, the Center for Reproductive Rights will present oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in a case involving a Louisiana woman who was forced to carry a pregnancy to term while serving time in prison. The Center maintains that the prison policy, which prevented her from obtaining an abortion, violated the woman’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment protections.
“We hope the Fifth Circuit will recognize that the jail created insurmountable obstacles that actually prevented Victoria W. from obtaining an abortion and deprived her of her constitutional right to an abortion,” said Linda Rosenthal, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights and lead counsel on the case.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is arguing that prison officials failed to attend to the serious medical needs of the plaintiff and, by requiring her to hire an attorney and obtain a court order, actually made it impossible for her to access abortion services. The Center is seeking damages for plaintiff Victoria W. under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Victoria W. first entered the Terrebonne Parish jail on July 28, 1999 and as a result of a routine physical, for the first time learned she was pregnant. Victoria W. immediately informed prison personnel that she wished to terminate the pregnancy. Eventually, she was informed in writing that she could not be released for an abortion unless she hired an attorney and received a court order authorizing the procedure. Though she attempted to comply with the jail’s policy, she was unable to obtain the court order. Victoria W. was released from prison on October 13, 1999, 25 weeks pregnant and no longer able to have an abortion in Louisiana.
Last April, a District Court Judge dismissed the plaintiff’s claims. The decision was the first in the country, previously, every federal court to address the constitutionality of a court-order policy for inmates had held that those policies violated both the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Today’s appeal follows several court battles over this case, filed in New Orleans on July 5, 2000.
Representing Victoria W. in the case Victoria W. v. Larpenter are Linda Rosenthal, Staff Attorney, with the Center for Reproductive Rights and William Rittenberg, an attorney with the firm of Rittenberg and Samuel in New Orleans.
WHAT: Oral Arguments before the Fifth Circuit in Victoria W. Case
WHEN: Wednesday, September 3, 2003 at 9:00 a.m.
WHERE: John Minor Wisdom United States Court of Appeals Building
600 Camp Street, Rm. 209
New Orleans, LA