WASHINGTON — The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) announced new guidance today to ensure unaccompanied immigrant minors have access to abortion. The policy is twofold: First, ORR must prioritize placing pregnant immigrant youth in shelters in states where abortion has not been banned; and second, if a minor is in a shelter where abortion is banned requests access to abortion, ORR must transfer her to another state where she can obtain care. The guidance issued today builds upon a previously issued policy secured in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that was the culmination of a years-long battle to ensure access to abortion for minors in ORR custody.
In response to ORR’s new guidance, Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, issued the following statement:
“We applaud ORR’s decision to place pregnant unaccompanied immigrant youth in states where they can access the full range of health care they may need, including abortion. The abortion bans in places like Texas not only prohibit access to abortion, but also to some miscarriage care. While unaccompanied immigrant youth should not be detained in the first place, this guidance will play a critical role in ensuring health care access for them, many of whom come to the United States fleeing violent circumstances, including sexual assault.
“While this is a step in the right direction, the Biden administration must continue its efforts to ensure abortion access for other people in government custody by strengthening Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection policies. Abortion is essential health care, and accessing it shouldn’t depend on your immigration status, whether you’re incarcerated, or which state you’re in.”