Federal judge blocks Trump administration officials from stopping immigrant teens from getting abortions

Federal judge blocks Trump administration officials from stopping immigrant teens from getting abortions
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A federal judge on Friday evening temporarily blocked Trump administration officials from stopping pregnant, unaccompanied immigrant teens who are or will be in federal custody from getting an abortion. 

Judge Tanya Chutkan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is violating the teens' constitutional rights to obtain the procedure.

According to the judge, the administration cannot strip unaccompanied immigrant minor children "of their right to make their own reproductive choices,” Chutkan wrote in the decision.

Chutkan's preliminary injunction stops Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families Steve Wagner, Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Scott Lloyd and their associates from interfering or obstructing access to abortion, counseling, medical appointments or other pregnancy-related care.

“The Department of Health & Human Services strongly maintains that taxpayers are not responsible for facilitating the abortion of unaccompanied minors who entered the country illegally and are currently in the government’s care," a spokesperson for HHS said. "We are working closely with the Justice Department to review the court's order and determine next steps.”

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The judge's decision noted that the Trump administration officials are not allowed to make their preferences policy.

“While ORR and its director are certainly entitled to maintain an interest in fetal life, and even to prefer that pregnant UC [unaccompanied immigrant minor children] in ORR custody choose one course over the other, ORR may not create or implement any policy that strips UCs of their right to make their own reproductive choices,” Chutkan wrote. 

Chutkan’s decision to grant the injunction came alongside an opinion certifying the young women as a class in a class action lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) first brought against the government last year.

The ACLU was fighting for the right of a woman, known only in court documents as Jane Doe, to get an abortion, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ultimately granted.

The Justice Department has since asked the Supreme Court to vacate that ruling and prevent others from pursuing a similar course of action.

ACLU in the interim added three other women to the lawsuit and asked the court to form a class that includes other similarly situated teens, as well as issue a preliminary injunction that stops administration officials from interfering with their access to abortion. 

In a statement Friday night, Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, called the court's decision a relief.

“The Trump administration’s cruel policy of blocking young immigrant women in federal custody from accessing abortion is a blatant abuse of power," she said. "We are relieved that the court issued an order preventing the administration from continuing this practice while our case proceeds."

Amiri said the ACLU is now one step closer to ending this "extreme" policy once and for all.

-Updated March 31 at 1:03 p.m.