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Pregnant Inmate Awaiting Trial Denied Furlough to Have an Abortion


A Portland, Oregon, woman who is awaiting trial in Yamhill County Jail has been denied a medical furlough she wishes to take to receive an abortion. The woman, Bridget Burkholder, is facing charges for arson, criminal mischief, driving under the influence, reckless driving and disorderly conduct. Most of these charges stem from an incident in which the 23-year-old allegedly damaged a hotel room in an attempt to set herself on fire. The Yamhill Valley News Register has more:

Bail has been set at $65,000, so she would have to post $6,500 to secure her release. But she doesn't have that kind of money, according to her court-appointed attorney, Abraham Hanson.

She wants to have the procedure performed in Salem, but needs a medical release and transportation there and back. So far, that has not been forthcoming.

Although the woman's lawyer claims she is running out of time to have the procedure, Circuit Judge John Collins has, thus far, denied her medical release. At the heart of this refusal is the notion that the release would be unsupervised; Burkholder's current mental state is questionable, labeling her as a potential flight risk.

Judge Collins claims that the local sheriff -- Jack Crabtree -- has the authority to have her escorted, but Collins claims that he does not have the jurisdiction to grant such a request. Crabtree, though, says that he will not escort the woman without a court order. In this case, both sides seem to be deferring to one another in addressing the matter. The Yamhill Valley News Register continues:

"I don't do medical furloughs on pretrial leave," Crabtree told the News-Register. "If this lady is of sound mind and ability to make decisions, then the judge has full ability to release her. Until I get a court order, I am not going to release somebody into society that could be a danger to herself or others."

Collins did offer to place a magistrate's hold, authorizing Burkholder's transfer to a mental health facility. That would presumably make it easier for her to arrange a supervised visit to the Salem clinic. As of Friday afternoon, her attorney had not given the judge an answer.

The case is complicated for a number of reasons. While Burkholder is legally able to obtain an abortion, authorities believe she is suffering from mental illness. Since her arrest on June 22, she has shown noticeable improvements, but all parties involved likely want to be sure that she is of sound mind when making the decision to terminate her pregnancy.

RH Reality Check, an online community that supports a woman's right to choose, takes issue with the disparity between the county's willingness to allow the woman to post bail and its refusal to transport her:

And there is the real issue -- she is suffering from mental health issues, so the court has decided that she is not capable of making a decision about wanting an abortion.  But somehow, if she had the $6500 to post bail, she could be allowed to decide for herself.

Yet again we learn that only a woman with financial resources has the right to terminate a pregnancy.

As time progresses, this case will likely get more interesting. Due to the legal ramifications involved, the local government clearly wants to tread carefully before allowing someone to make a decision he or she may not fully be aware of.

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