June 14, 2019 – A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union in its challenge to the Trump administration’s policy of blocking abortions for immigrant teens in federal custody. The court of appeals held that the Trump administration’s policy should continue to be blocked while the case proceeds as a class action. The court found that there is a likelihood that Jane Doe and the other young women will succeed on their claim that the no-abortion policy “infringes on their protected right to choose to terminate their pregnancies.”
“The Trump administration’s cruel policy of blocking young immigrant women in federal custody from accessing abortion was a blatant abuse of power,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We are relieved that today’s ruling continues to prevent the policy from taking effect while the case proceeds, and allows the case to proceed as a class action as we continue this fight.”
The ruling comes amid a nationwide sweep of state abortion bans this year by anti-abortion politicians intended to push abortion care out of reach entirely, and initiate a direct legal challenge to Roe v. Wade.
The ACLU brought the challenge in 2017 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 then certified as a class action and a district court judge ordered the policy halted in March 2018.
The ACLU has 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 and withholds crucial health information
- Requiring pregnant teens to have medically unnecessary sonograms against their will
- Blocking pregnant teens from traveling to medical visits for counseling about their pregnancy options.
“With today’s ruling, we are another step closer to ending this extreme policy once and for all, and securing justice for all of these young women,” Amiri said. “We will continue fighting to make sure that the Trump administration is permanently blocked from obstructing young immigrant minors’ access to crucial health care.”
Attorneys on the case include Amiri, Meagan Burrows, Jennifer Dalven, Lindsey Kaley, and Daniel Mach of the ACLU; Arthur Spitzer and Scott Michelman 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 on the ACLU website: https://www.aclu.org/cases/garza-v-hargan-challenge-trump-administrations-attempts-block-abortions-young-immigrant-women