Prisoners for choice

Abortion | Inmates get to impose the death sentence

Issue: "Global shame," June 15, 2002

A convicted criminal has to give up some rights, but in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the right to kill her unborn child isn't one of them. In a settlement of an ACLU lawsuit, the county agreed last week to provide inmates timely access to abortions. The lawsuit stemmed from a 1998 case in which Judge Patricia Cleary sentenced Yuriko Kawaguchi to six months in jail for forgery. Ms. Kawaguchi had pled guilty to the charge after she used fake credit cards to buy $16,000 in computer equipment. Nevertheless, she claimed Judge Cleary imposed the sentence just to keep her from obtaining an abortion. Controversy over the case ended Judge Cleary's legal career. She lost her bid for a third term in 2000, and last year the Ohio Supreme Court suspended her law license for acting "contrary to the administration of justice." Ms. Kawaguchi kept her baby, but the legal fight continued, and she won $1,000 in the settlement. The county also agreed to educate female inmates about "safe sex," contraception, and family planning.

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