ACLU sues over abortion access for immigrants

Abortion, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, ACLU, Immigration
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Obama administration for documents it says will show religious organizations are restricting access to abortions for unaccompanied immigrant children. 

The civil rights groups is concerned that unaccompanied immigrant teenagers who have been raped are being denied access to emergency contraception and abortion because of the religious beliefs of groups providing care.

In particular, the government contracts with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to care for unaccompanied immigrant children. The USCCB is objecting to a new regulation proposed by the Obama administration that would require contractors to provide access to contraception and abortion for unaccompanied immigrant children who have been raped. 

“The bishops want to take millions of dollars in government contracts, but at the same time, they don't want to comply with the terms of the contracts,” Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney at the ACLU, said on a call with reporters. 

The lawsuit could add new fuel to the war over religious freedom, which has raged in the Supreme Court case over ObamaCare’s contraception mandate and in more recent fights over “religious freedom” laws in Indiana and Arkansas.

Amiri noted the backlash to the Indiana law, which critics view as permitting discrimination against gay people. 

“We think that the same principle applies here, that religious beliefs should not be used to harm others,” she said. 

At the moment, the ACLU is only suing for the release of documents, not for any action to take place. It says that the Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged with caring for unaccompanied immigrant children, has “largely ignored” its Freedom of Information Act requests over the last six months.

HHS did not respond to a request for comment on the matter. 

The USCCB, along with other religious groups, has submitted comments to the Obama administration on its proposed regulation, objecting to the requirement. 

The bishops also object to a proposed accommodation, which would allow them to refer a child to others for contraception or abortion, so that they do not have to provide the services themselves. The USCCB views this as still enabling actions that violate their religious beliefs. 

The bishops point to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act in making the case against the regulation.

“There is little question that a government requirement to provide or refer for items or procedures to which an organization has a religious and moral objection would impose a ‘substantial burden’ on its exercise of religion,” they write.