BOP Updates its Abortion Policy to Exclude Requirement that Staff Follow State Laws

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has revised its abortion policy and removed the language in it that had required staff to adhere to state laws when arranging an abortion for a pregnant prisoner. Was this done in response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade last month? I`d say that`s a good assumption.

In my post on June 25, I posed the question whether the BOP would change its abortion policy for pregnant prisoners in light of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade. I pointed out that the policy doesn`t require BOP staff to follow state law in arranging for an abortion, only that they should be “guided” by state law. I said that only if the BOP decides to ignore the laws of states banning abortion will pregnant prisoners be able to get an abortion in BOP custody.

Well, on July 8, the BOP updated its policy, titled “Female Offender Manual,” to delete the language requiring staff to refer to state abortion laws. That language had read: “Staff shall have knowledge of, and shall be guided by, applicable federal and state laws and regulations.” It`s now removed, leaving just this directive in the policy:

The Regional Counsel shall be consulted if there are questions concerning the interpretation of laws and regulations.

The BOP also left intact that it would still pay all costs for an abortion that was the result of rape or incest. See 5200.07, sec 7(c).

It seems the BOP is still on-board with arranging abortions for pregnant prisoners, regardless of whether state law where the prisoner is held bans them.

Dale Chappell is the author of hundreds of published articles on the federal criminal justice system, and the Insider`s Guide series of federal post-conviction books. Follow his blog at and on Twitter at @zenlawguy.

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