WASHINGTON — A federal court ordered the Trump administration on Friday to stop blocking young immigrant women in federal custody from obtaining abortions.
The order came in Garza v. Hargan, a case the American Civil Liberties Union brought late last year against the Office of Refugee Resettlement 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 and requested that the judge certify them as a class.
Friday’s decision by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted class certification and ordered the government to stop enforcing its “no abortion” policy against any woman in ORR custody while litigation proceeds.
“The Trump administration’s cruel policy of blocking young immigrant women in federal custody from accessing abortion is a blatant abuse of power,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We are relieved that the court issued an order preventing the administration from continuing this practice while our case proceeds. With this ruling, we are one step closer to ending this extreme policy once and for all and securing justice for all of these young women.”
In the ruling, Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote, “In short, ORR’s policy is premised on the notion that the Director is entitled to exercise complete control over female UCs’ [unaccompanied children] reproductive decisions by virtue of the fact that they are undocumented minors in ORR custody. The adoption and implementation of such a policy is itself sufficient to raise constitutional flags.”
Since September 2017, several young immigrant women, known as Jane Doe, Jane Poe, Jane Roe, and Jane Moe, have come forward after enduring ORR’s attempts to coerce them to carry their pregnancies to term and being blocked from obtaining abortion care by ORR.
New transcripts released today from the ACLU’s depositions on February 13 of ORR Director Scott Lloyd and Deputy Director Jonathan White provided additional insight into the administration’s extreme beliefs and actions:
The depositions revealed that from December 18, 2017, to February 13, 2018, five women in ORR custody requested access to abortion care. One of these women, Jane Moe, came forward and was released from ORR custody and free to obtain an abortion after the ACLU challenged ORR in court. Accordingly, four additional women not known to the ACLU were likely subjected to ORR’s policy of forcing minors to remain pregnant and trying to coerce them to carry to term.
The transcripts also showed that ORR has developed new tactics designed to coerce young women to carry to term. For example, Lloyd forced Jane Moe to listen to a letter from a couple who wanted to adopt her baby if she continued her pregnancy, despite the fact that Moe never expressed an interest in adoption, and the couple had not been vetted.
According to his deposition, Lloyd said he believes abortion is a sin and expressed his belief that he would be “potentially” complicit in sin if he ever approved an abortion request, confirming that he is invoking his religious opposition to abortion to block access to abortion for minors in ORR’s care.
“This additional information confirms the far-reaching and extreme nature of Scott Lloyd’s anti-abortion policy,” said Amiri. “Lloyd has made it his mission to personally review and deny every single one of these young women’s requests for abortion access, after subjecting them to coercion and manipulation. As we have long suspected, many more young women than the handful who have come forward have been impacted by Lloyd’s cruelty.”
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.
Links to the depositions are available here:
More about this case can be found on the ACLU website: https://www.aclu.org/cases/garza-v-hargan-challenge-trump-administrations-attempts-block-abortions-young-immigrant-women