A pregnant inmate in Lauderdale County Jail wanted to get an abortion. The Sheriff had a policy that “non-emergency” medical services that could not be handled by jail staff required a court order directing the Sheriff’s Department to transport for services. The district attorney opposed both the transportation and the abortion, writing a letter to the Sheriff, with a copy to the court file.  

We filed suit claiming that the refusal to transport, and the requirement for a court order, violated Jane Doe’s fundamental right to obtain an abortion if she chose to do so and that the refusal further constituted cruel and unusual punishment. There were four published cases addressing similar policies around the country. The Third Circuit struck down such a requirement on both grounds that we alleged. The Supreme Court of Arizona struck down the requirement based upon the constitutional right to choose. The Fifth Circuit upheld such a policy while the Eighth Circuit struck down a policy that prevented abortions, and cited the Fifth Circuit as a reasonable alternative.

We filed the lawsuit on July 20 and a hearing on our motion for a TRO or preliminary injunction was held in Huntsville on July 27. The judge promised a decision by Friday, July 31. In the meantime, the District Attorney filed a petition for termination of parental rights and the state court appointed an attorney for Jane Doe (an attorney first licensed in September 2014 who is affiliated with a Christian church and day care center that has a link to an anti-abortion website on its webpage) and a guardian ad litem for the fetus. The attorney and GAL then visited Jane Doe together at the jail on July 28. The next day, the attorney prepared an affidavit for Jane Doe to sign stating that she had changed her mind and that “I no longer desire to pursue an abortion procedure and intend to carry the unborn child to full term and birth. I have arrived at this decision of my own volition and choosing without any promise of present and/or future consideration and without any undue influence, duress, or threat of harm, whether actual or implied.” The affidavit went on to state that “I no longer desire to pursue litigation in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama (Civil Action No. 3: 15-cv-01215-AKK) to demand an abortion of my unborn child.” Judge Kallon held an evening phone conference with the attorneys, ordered a hearing in Florence on July 31, and further ordered that Jane Doe be brought to the hearing. The state court termination of parental rights action was “put on hold” given her change of mind.

At the July 31 hearing, Jane Doe testified that she did not want an abortion and did not want to pursue the case any further. The Court thus dismissed the action.

The case is closed.

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