The American Civil Liberties Union filed a new suit Friday, in a Washington, D.C. federal court, challenging the Trump administration’s abortion ban for all pregnant girls who are held in the government-funded shelters.
The Trump abortion ban, which was revealed in documents filed in a San Francisco court case, has been in effect since March and prohibits abortions for pregnant girls who entered the United States alone and are in immigration custody.
Under the policy, shelters cannot release minors for abortion-related services without approval of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. Bob Egelko reports the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Scott Lloyd, has said he will allow release detainees only for “pregnancy services and life-affirming options counseling. . . . My priority is unborn children, and there will be no more abortions.”
According to Egelko, pregnant minors in the shelters are ordered to visit religiously sponsored “crisis pregnancy centers” where they are shown fetal sonograms, warned of the dangers of abortions and pressured to give birth. In addition, Lloyd’s office contacts the girls’ parents in their homelands to tell them their daughters are pregnant. And Lloyd himself has visited shelters to try to talk individual residents out of having abortions.
The suit seeks a court order to allow a 17-year-old girl, now held in a federally supervised immigration shelter in Texas and identified only as Jane Doe, to visit the doctor who has agreed to perform her abortion this week. In addition, the ACLU seeks an injunction that would require the federal refugee office to allow pregnant girls to seek abortions and would end the mandatory visits to the antiabortion centers and the contacts with the girls’ parents.
The Justice Department, which has not yet filed arguments in defense of the administration’s policy, has said that Jane Doe’s rights were not being violated because she was free to leave the shelter and return to her homeland. If the court orders the government to free Jane Doe to terminate her pregnancy it “would create a right to abortion for anyone on earth who entered the United States illegally, no matter how briefly.”
The ACLU argues the right to abortion is covered by the guarantee of due process of law, which is provided, under the Constitution, to any “person” in the United States, and not just to U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.