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Good News, Shockingly

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It’s not often that I get to write about good news with regard to the American criminal (in)justice system. But today is one of those rare days.

Late last week, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Missouri District Court’s holding that the state prison system is required to provide transportation for pregnant incarcerated women who want abortions. The decision overturns Governor Matt Blunt’s policy of denying pregnant inmates access to abortion services by refusing to transport them to St. Louis for the procedure. (About 7% of incarcerated women are pregnant at the time of their sentencing; many more become pregnant during their incarceration by guards who sexually assault and rape them or by intimate partners who visit.)

While the 8th Circuit rejected the district court’s finding that the policy amounted to cruel & unusual punishment, the court affirmed the district court’s holding that Gov. Blunt’s policy violated the constitutional rights of women inmates by placing an undue burden on their right to abortion. As the lawyer who represented the pseudonymous plaintiff (together with the ACLU) explained, “abortion is not a right that is lost at the jailhouse door.”

How true. My challenge to so-called pro-life governors like Gov. Blunt who don’t like having to provide access to abortion for their incarcerated women: show us you actually have a modicum of concern about life (and not just the politics of it) and ban the use of shackles on pregnant and laboring women.

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