National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Jailed Abortion-Seeker Gives Birth, Then Sues

BY Jim Cosgrove

February 14-20, 1999 Issue | Posted 2/14/99 at 2:00 PM


CLEVELAND—A woman whose plans to have an abortion were thwarted when a judge sent her to prison for credit card forgery has given birth to a baby girl.

“That's wonderful. I hope everything is OK,” Judge Patricia Cleary said upon learning that the woman who is suing her — Yuriko Kawaguchi — had given birth to a daughter.

Kawaguchi, 21, and her baby were doing well on Tuesday, said George Carr, one of her lawyers. The 7-pound, 1-ounce girl was born Monday in the San Francisco area.

The lawsuit accuses Cleary of violating Kawaguchi's right to have an abortion by sending her to prison for an offense that gets most offenders probation.

Cleary has said repeatedly, and reiterated Tuesday, that the sentence was based on the severity of the crime, which involved buying computers with fake credit cards and selling the merchandise.

It's not like she wrote a bad check to pay the rent,” Cleary said. “But I'm not going to be a hypocrite. I think it worked out swell if that was her desire to abort her child that late.”

Kawaguchi pleaded guilty to a forgery charge in the credit card scam. At that time, she referred to her “unwanted pregnancy” and told the judge: “I will be trying to have a procedure.”

At an Oct. 6 sentencing hearing, Kawaguchi was more than five months pregnant and sought probation. At one point the judge said: “She is not having a second-term abortion.”

Cleary, who opposes abortion, sentenced Kawaguchi to six months in prison, with credit for more than four months already spent in jail. A state appeals court ordered Kawaguchi's release on bond Oct. 13 while she fights her sentence, a court battle that is ongoing.

She decided upon her release that she was too far along in her pregnancy to legally have an abortion in Ohio, which allows abortion after 22 weeks only in unusual cases.

She said last fall she would have undergone an abortion but had decided to keep the baby.

In November, she won permission to go to California, where she lives with her mother and sister. Phone messages left Tuesday for the Kawaguchi family were not returned.

Ohio prisoners can get abortions, but the abortion facility that provides them generally does not perform them after the fourth month of pregnancy, said state prisons spokesman Joseph Andrews. (Pro-Life Infonet)