Women’s Rights Don’t Stop at the Jailhouse Door

Rachel Roth

in Interrupted Life

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780520252493
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944565 | DOI:
Women’s Rights Don’t Stop at the Jailhouse Door

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Incarcerated women won an important victory when a state court of appeals ruled against a county sheriff's unwritten policy requiring women to obtain a court order in order to be transported from jail to a clinic for an abortion. The unconstitutional policy was that of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who oversaw the jails in Maricopa County, Arizona. Across the country, correctional authorities make it difficult for women to obtain abortions, by forcing them to jump through bureaucratic hoops and refusing to pay for the abortion or even to take them to a clinic. Two important constitutional rights protect women's decisions about pregnancy and abortion. The right to choose abortion applies to all American women, and the right to adequate medical care is guaranteed specifically to people in prison, as part of the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. This chapter shows that prison authorities frequently suspend the constitutionally protected right to privacy of pregnant prisoners, denying or granting them reproductive autonomy according to the whim or the predilections of current prison authorities.

Keywords: Joe Arpaio; Arizona; incarcerated women; abortion; pregnancy; medical care; right to privacy; pregnant prisoners; constitutional rights

Chapter.  1685 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality

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