According to a judge-approved agreement from Wednesday, the Trump administration will cease blocking immigrant teens in federal custody from accessing abortion care.
The policy follows an ACLU lawsuit from 2017 on behalf of a 17-year-old from Central America seeking an abortion, referred to as “Jane Doe”. The ACLU claimed that the government’s abortion ban has impacted hundreds of pregnant girls in federal custody each year. The new policy mandates that Trump’s Office of Refugee Resettlement cannot block access to reproductive health care, including abortion.
This case received public attention because of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who had served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and had ruled against the pregnant minor accessing abortion care.
When Jane Doe attempted to receive abortion care while she was in a Texas “government-funded shelter,” a judge ruled that she was “mature enough to bypass the state’s parental consent requirement.” However, the former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, E. Scott Lloyd, said government shelters should only support pregnancy services and “life-affirming options counseling”. The office refused to “facilitate” abortions for pregnant teens in custody who crossed the border without their parents.
This policy contrasts with that of the Obama administration, which allowed migrants to access abortion care at their own expense.
In 2018, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued an injunction to prevent the Trump administration from blocking minors from obtaining an abortion while the lawsuit was pending. After the policy revision this week, the parties moved to voluntarily dismiss the case, and Chutkan approved the action officially on Wednesday.
“We are relieved that the government finally abandoned its attempts to block young people in its custody from accessing abortion,” Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. The change “rights one of the wrongs this administration has committed against immigrants in detention.”
Sources: Washington Post 9/30/20; Washington Post 10/24/17; Washington Post 12/21/17; ACLU 9/29/20