Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No bail money? No abortion.

Yamhill County, Oregon, is a a beautiful place in terms of scenery. It's home to many of Oregon's wineries and stunning forestry. The Visitor's Association says:
Yamhill Valley is authentic Oregon. A place where the good life is cultivated every day. Where world-class wineries dot the verdant rolling hills, and roadside farm stands intersect with bicycle brigades. Where historic main streets meet urban-style bistros. Where imagination still takes flight and you're never too old to stay and play.
I actually live relatively close to Yamhill County--if I have to drive to Salem (Oregon's capitol), I spend the vast majority of the time driving though Yamhill County. Truly, it is a lovely place.

Picturesque, however, doesn't necessarily mean much. This little slice of "authentic Oregon" currently has a woman in jail awaiting trial. The woman, Bridget Burkholder, needs an abortion. The county is refusing to provide transportation--which it does do for medical care. The county has, essentially, said that if she can come up with the $6500 bail, she's more than free to go get an abortion.
Bridget Burkholder, a 23-year-old Portland resident, is awaiting trial on arson, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct charges after she allegedly damaged a McMinnville motel room in what authorities feared was preparation to set herself on fire.

[...]

At a Thursday hearing, Hanson [Abraham, defense attorney] told Circuit Judge John Collins that his client was running out of time. He asked Collins to grant her a conditional release so she could make an appointment scheduled for the following morning.

However, such a release would be unsupervised. After hearing from both Burkholder and the jail's licensed social worker, Patricia Brown, Collins denied the release.

Collins said Sheriff Jack Crabtree had the legal authority to have her escorted to Salem and back for her clinic visit. He said he had no authority to order a medical furlough himself, but said, "I believe the sheriff does, whether the inmate is under pre-trial or sentenced status."
Sheriff Crabtree is outright refusing to do so without a court order. At Ms. Burkholder's hearing, Ms. Brown (the social worker) said that Ms. Burkholder was doing well with psychiatric treatment, though she may still pose a risk to herself and other people. Also at the hearing the prosecutor, Michael Videtich, had this to say:
"Also, this isn't a scenario where there is a medical emergency. I understand that there is a timeline, but it's not an emergency. This is an elective procedure she has a right to have. But she can post bail."
But, no, she cannot just post bail: she does not have the money to do so. Also Mr. Videtich? Abortion is not an "elective procedure" akin to, say, eyelash tinting. All medical procedures are technically "elective", that makes them no less necessary. This is, in fact, an emergency. Simply because she is not about to die right now makes it no less urgent. I see your false equivalence and call your bullshit.

All Ms. Burkholder is requesting is transportation. She does not want the county to pay for the abortion. She does not want someone from the county to be her support person. Still, Sheriff Crabtree is unmoved and refusing: he is waiting for a court order and that's final.

That may seem outrageous--and it is. It's not surprising, though, because way back in 1997 two county commissioners--Tom Bunn and Rob Johnstone--passed Ordinance 634 (.pdf) which says (in part):
THE YAMHILL COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS ORDAINS AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1.

(a) No person shall, while serving as agent for Yamhill County, facilitate by any means the performance of an abortion, other than to the extent required by state and federal law.

(b) No person shall be required to perform, assist, or facilitate the performance of an abortion. The refusal to perform, assist, or facilitate the performance of, or provide abortion services, shall not constitute grounds for civil or criminal liability, disciplinary action or discriminatory treatment.

(c) This ordinance shall in now be construed as limiting a person's choice in facilitating an abortion when not acting as an agent of Yamhill County. However, under no circumstances shall county resources be used.
The News Register article notes that at those commissioners's directives, the county's health departments stopped providing family planning and assistance (though they never offered abortion services)--and stopped doing so for a decade.

Meanwhile, time is ticking down for Ms. Burkholder.