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Former inmate says Indiana prison postponed abortion access until gestational limit had passed

A former inmate at Indiana Women's Prison has filed a civil rights complaint alleging that prison officials postponed and blocked her abortion access until she was past the gestational limit for abortion care, Courthouse News reports.

The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, has requested an unspecified amount of damages.

Complaint details

According to the complaint, Doe learned she was pregnant a few days before she was incarcerated for six months. She was not able to access abortion care before her prison term began on Jan. 20.

In the complaint, Doe said she sought abortion care because of complications she had suffered in prior pregnancies. Doe underwent an emergency cesarean section during her first pregnancy and she went into labor prematurely during her second and third pregnancies.

Doe said she informed the Department of Corrections as soon as she began her sentence that she wanted to access abortion care. However, prison staff told Doe that in addition to the cost of care, she would have to advance $1,000 for the cost of transportation and guards to travel to the clinic.

Further, according to the complaint, "DOC employees began treating Ms. Doe as if she was going to carry the pregnancy to term." Specifically, the complaint alleges that prison staff "moved Ms. Doe off the top bunk, placed her on the 'pregnancy diet' at meal time and provided a prenatal care visit at the Indiana Women's Prison."

Doe alleges that prison staff misled her about her right to access abortion care so as to postpone such access until she was past the gestational limit for abortion care. Doe worked with legal counsel, but by the time she managed to arrange transportation to an abortion provider, she was told that she was at 14 weeks of pregnancy. The clinic provided abortion care only through 13 weeks and six days of pregnancy.

Doe carried the pregnancy to term, but she experienced multiple complications. She had to check into the hospital several times to be treated for vomiting and dehydration, had a urinary tract infection throughout her pregnancy that was exacerbated by prison rules governing bathroom use and experienced fevers and rashes resulting from injections she had to take to prevent premature labor.

According to the complaint, it was illegal for prison staff to block her access to care based on her ability to prepay the cost of transportation and security. The complaint states, "Any delay in Ms. Doe visiting an abortion provider is entirely the fault of the defendants. The plaintiff made repeated and clear requests to receive an abortion" (Bailey, Courthouse News, 12/19).