Pending Settlement Of Lawsuit Outlines Inmate Abortion Rights - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Pending Settlement Of Lawsuit Outlines Inmate Abortion Rights

By M.R. KROPKO, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Cuyahoga County promises to provide abortion services to pregnant inmates in a more timely manner as part of a proposed settlement of a lawsuit filed against the county.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a woman who claimed she was sentenced by a judge who wanted to keep her jailed until it was too late for an abortion. The judge said the sentence followed the law.

A court session to finalize the agreement was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

The lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of former inmate Yuriko Kawaguchi accused former Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Patricia Cleary of preventing Kawaguchi from having an abortion by sentencing her to six months in jail in 1998 for forgery.

The Ohio Supreme Court suspended Cleary on Sept. 19 after the Cleveland Bar Association accused her of being biased while acting as a judge. Cleary argued that although she personally opposes abortion, her decision was based on the law.

Kawaguchi, of Burlingame, Calif., was convicted of forgery for buying computer equipment with a fake credit card.

She was released on bond while appealing her sentence but decided it was too late to get an abortion. She went to California and gave birth to a daughter in 1999.

The draft agreement reinforces the county's existing policy allowing inmates access to pregnancy services including abortions.

Under the agreement, the county agrees that "time is of the essence in providing medical treatment throughout the term of the pregnancy, which includes diagnosis and treatment as well as information and access to medical facilities including those which provide abortion services."

The county also will pay Kawaguchi $1,000, according to the draft agreement.

Cleary said Monday night that she would withhold comment until she had a chance to review the signed agreement.

ACLU lawyer George Carr said the settlement was reached about a week before a May 20 trial date.

The lawsuit included Cleary as a defendant, although some question remained whether she had judicial immunity, said Linda Rocker, a Kawaguchi lawyer. The lawsuit also was against the county and several county officials.

Assistant Prosecutor Carmen Naso, who negotiated the settlement from the county's side, did not return a call Tuesday requesting comment on the agreement.

Cleary, a Republican elected to the county bench in 1988, lost her re-election bid in November. She said she had decided to leave the legal field before the Supreme Court's ruling.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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