The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to overturn lower court rulings that require Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to provide transportation when pregnant jail inmates want abortions.
Without comment, the justices rebuffed Arpaio's contention that he has no legal obligation to provide transportation for elective surgical procedures.
Arpaio said abortion is no different than having a "nose job."
Monday's ruling is a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought the sheriff for four years. Alessandra Meetze, executive director of the group's Arizona chapter, said the decision should end the county's "blatant disregard for the law."
But Arpaio told Capitol Media Services that "every case is different" when asked what he will do the next time the issue comes up.
"We have to see what the facts are," he said.
Inmates who are awaiting trial or serving sentences cannot be released on their own for medical care.
Court records show the sheriff's office has had an unwritten policy of not providing the necessary escorts for inmates to undergo voluntary medical procedures.
Instead, the agency has required inmates to first get a court order.
The woman involved in this 2004 case eventually got her abortion after getting such a court order. But the ACLU sued, saying the policy is an unreasonable restriction on a woman's legal right to terminate her pregnancy.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Barry Schneider agreed, declaring the policy illegal.
That led to a series of appeals, culminating with Monday's decision by the nation's high court to leave Schneider's ruling in place.
Arpaio said it's not fair to require Maricopa County taxpayers to pay for the extra security.
But the state Court of Appeals, when it heard the case, pointed out that this woman had offered to reimburse the county for any costs.
Arpaio said that still doesn't make the requirement to transport women for abortions a good idea.
"I presume when someone wants a nose job and will reimburse, then we've got to transport them," he said. "I mean, this is getting to be ridiculous."