Judge Rules Inmate Entitled to Abortion

Times Staff Writer

A Panorama City woman imprisoned for killing her husband is expected to receive a state-funded abortion this week after a Superior Court judge in Ontario ruled that prison officials acted unfairly in refusing to pay for the operation.

Terri Lynn Scrape, 27, who is now 19 weeks pregnant, was originally told by prison officials that she would have to pay $5,000 to receive an abortion, according to a complaint filed on her behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The complaint, filed against the state Department of Corrections and the California Institution for Women at Frontera, where Scrape is serving a 16-year-to-life sentence, alleges that state prison officials told Scrape that it was against their policy to pay for abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy except for therapeutic or medical reasons.


ACLU attorney Susan McGreivy said Monday that Scrape requested a pregnancy test in mid-August but was not notified of the test results until Sept. 13, at which time she was already 16 weeks pregnant.

At that point, Scrape was told that she would have to pay $500 in medical fees and $4,500 in security costs to have an abortion performed outside the hospital, the complaint says.

After a short hearing Friday, Judge William Pitt Hyde ruled that Scrape had been prejudiced by prison officials and is entitled to receive a state-funded abortion.

Had Scrape been informed of the test results in a timely manner, Hyde said, she would have been able to schedule her abortion within the first 12 weeks of her pregnancy in compliance with prison policy.

Hal Tanner, chief deputy superintendent at the Frontera Prison, confirmed that, according to a state policy, prisons will not pay for abortions after the first trimester. Besides, Riverside County General Hospital, which contracts with the prison to provide medical services, will not perform abortions after the first trimester.

State prison officials said that they misplaced the request for a pregnancy test, made when Scrape was 11 weeks pregnant. The lost paper work caused a three-week delay, making her ineligible for a state-financed abortion, according to prison authorities.

McGreivy said that Scrape, who is indigent, was originally told her test results were negative and that she was not pregnant. She was later told that she was pregnant but would not be given an abortion because she was healthy and able to bear a child, according to McGreivy.

ACLU officials have contended that the prison’s actions constituted a moral judgment that impinged upon Scrape’s right to have an abortion.

Abortions are legal in the United States through the first two trimesters of pregnancy.

Scrape, a laboratory technician in Inglewood, was convicted of second-degree murder in June, 1985 for the May, 1984 slaying of her husband, Lee Andrew Scrape, 40. The victim was found in the couple’s home with multiple stab wounds.