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Call For An End To The Trump Administration’s No-Abortion Policy for Immigrant Teens

WASHINGTON - More than 20 groups, individuals, and state attorneys general filed four friend-of-the-court briefs in Garza v. Hargan, the American Civil Liberties Union’s class-action challenge to the Trump administration’s policy of blocking abortions for immigrant teens in federal custody.

Together, the groups further explain how the Trump administration’s policy violates the constitutional rights of young immigrant women, and why it is so harmful.

“Restricting young women in the custody of federal immigration authorities from timely access to care threatens their lives and health. There is no medical justification for the restrictions [the Office of Refugee Resettlement] has imposed on young women seeking reproductive health care,” said Lisa M. Hollier, M.D., president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “ACOG is proud to stand with other leading medical organizations in providing the court with the medical community’s perspective concerning the detrimental consequences of this policy.”

Nineteen attorneys general, led by New York State Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood, filed a joint brief, arguing the Trump administration’s policy ignores Supreme Court precedent, and intrudes on matters typically left to the states.

“All women have a constitutionally-protected right to access safe and effective abortion services -- including unaccompanied minors,” said Underwood. “Many of these young women have fled horrific violence, and some are pregnant as the result of rape. The Trump administration simply does not have the authority to force their personal views on these young women by requiring them to carry pregnancies against their will. The federal policy is unconstitutional and inhumane, and we will continue to fight it.”

Reproductive justice organizations, including the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, also filed a friend-of-the-court brief.

“AAPI women and other women of color deserve access to safe and legal abortion care. Denying immigrants their right to an abortion can have devastating effects on their emotional and physical health,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of NAPAWF. “We must value the health and wellbeing of immigrant communities, and should ensure that they are able to access accurate information, understand their options, and receive culturally sensitive and comprehensive care — all of which is critical to preserving their health, dignity and ability to make their own decisions.”

“Young girls are raped or enslaved after fleeing violence or death in their home countries in Central America — then learn their rapists have also left them pregnant.  When they arrive in the US, this horror is compounded: Under current US policies, these young girls are locked up and denied their Constitutional rights, including the right to access an abortion,” said Emily Arnold-Fernández, executive director of Asylum Access. “Asylum Access files this amicus brief with Public Counsel, Washington Office on Latin America and the Legal Aid Society to ask the court to remedy this gross injustice and protect the constitutional rights of girls who have already survived so much.”

The ACLU brought this case late last year against the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) on behalf of Jane Doe, an unaccompanied immigrant minor whom the government tried to block from obtaining an abortion. After the court ordered the government to allow Doe to proceed with her abortion, the ACLU learned of several other young women in government custody who were being prevented from accessing abortion care. The case was certified as a class action, and the policy has been blocked as the case proceeds.

The government’s treatment of these young women was part of a new policy by the Trump administration to block access to abortion care for young immigrants in federal custody. The ACLU has already documented egregious harms including:

  • Requiring pregnant teens to go to a religiously affiliated, anti-abortion “Crisis Pregnancy Center” for counseling that urges them to continue their pregnancy
  • Requiring a pregnant teen to have a medically unnecessary sonogram against her will
  • Blocking pregnant teens from travelling to medical visits.

“The ACLU is proud to have the support of our partners in the fight to put an end to the Trump administration’s cruel policy,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.  “We are relieved that the policy is blocked while the case continues, and we will do everything we can to strike it down once and for all.”

The full list of amicus curiae includes: the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, the American College of Physicians, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (brief authored by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP); the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Advocates for Youth, American Association of United Women, Blake Women for Wellness, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Center for American Progress, Desiree Alliance, Hispanic Federation, Human Rights Watch, Ibis Reproductive Health, If/When/How, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Legal Voice, LULAC,  NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Abortion Federation, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Council of Jewish Women, National Institute for Reproductive Health, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Network of Abortion Funds, and National Partnership; and Asylum Access, Public Counsel, Washington Office on Latin America and the Legal Aid Society (brief authored by Morrison & Foerster LLP).

Attorneys on the case include Amiri, Meagan Burrows, Jennifer Dalven, Lindsey Kaley, and Daniel Mach of the ACLU; Arthur Spitzer,  Scott Michelman, and Shana Knizhnik  of the ACLU of the District of Columbia; Melissa Goodman of the ACLU of Southern California; Elizabeth Gill of the ACLU of Northern California; and Mishan Wroe of Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP.

More about this case can be found here:
https://www.aclu.org/cases/garza-v-hargan-challenge-trump-administrations-attempts-block-abortions-young-immigrant-women

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