COLUMBIA, Tenn. - A former inmate has filed a law suit against the Maury County Sheriff in federal court, claiming he denied her right to an abortion because the pregnancy was not a threat to the inmate's health or the result of rape or incest.
"We did not have a specific policy," said Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland. "Tennessee Corrections does not have a specific policy. It's really a gray area."
Kei'Choura Cathey, 29, first discovered she was pregnant in August, 2015, while awaiting trial. She was charged with facilitation and conspiracy to commit felony murder.
According to the lawsuit, Cathey told Sheriff Rowland she wanted to terminate the pregnancy on August 27.
"I brought in my command staff and medical team to research guidelines," Rowland said. "We felt this was a voluntary procedure, which we do have guidelines for."
That policy states inmates must cover the cost of voluntary procedures.
Cathey's lawsuit argues that policy effectively denied her an abortion, resulting in the birth of a child in April, expenses to Cathey, and post partum depression.
The lawsuit also alleges Rowland refused Cathey transportation to a medical clinic. Rowland said that is untrue.
"We were going to offer transportation to and from," said Rowland. "We even tried to help this resident get a lower bond so she could go and take care of her business."
Because Cathey was a pretrial inmate, Rowland said she also needed to post bond to leave the jail for a voluntary procedure.
Cathey's bond was lowered three times - from one million dollars, down to $8,000. Rowland said Cathey needed to put up 10% of that bond, about $800, to leave and make her own decision outside of jail.
According to the lawsuit, Cathey was unable to post bond until January, more than six months into her pregnancy, when an abortion is illegal.
"She decided to stay the course," Rowland said.
Cathey gave birth to her child in April and is now suing Rowland for $1.5 million.
Her attorney declined to comment for this story.
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