Roe v. Wade invoked as defense in lawsuit over Wayne County jail care

March 2, 2009

Roe v. Wade invoked as defense in lawsuit over Wayne County jail care

February 27, 2009
Associated Press

Chelsie Barker, now a 10-year-old girl, needs round-the-clock attention as a result of a lack of oxygen during birth in the Wayne County jail.


Jail officers are being sued in federal court, accused of violating the girl’s constitutional rights by not getting her mother, an inmate, to a hospital for the delivery.

Their unusual defense? Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion decision. Attorneys for the officers say they’re not liable because the child had no 14th Amendment right before she was born.

So far, it’s been a losing argument.

The jail officers “had sufficient warning that the child was on the way and did not get her the medical care she needed immediately prior to, during, and after the birth,” U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III said.

The injury, he wrote, was a “continuous one” and “there is no principled reason to distinguish those injuries sustained before the birth from those sustained after the birth.”

The U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment says government shall not deprive any person of life or liberty without due process.

Because the girl’s mother was in jail, county officers “had a duty to protect and care for Chelsie,” Murphy wrote Jan. 22, rejecting a request to dismiss the lawsuit.


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