National Security

Abortion services still accessible to detained migrants after Supreme Court ruling, ICE memo says

Photo Illustration— Madeline Monroe/Greg Nash

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is telling its centers that detained migrants can still have access to abortion services after the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to the procedure, even if that means transferring detainees across state lines, according to multiple news reports. 

ICE acting Director Tae Johnson wrote a memo to ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations acting Executive Associate Director Corey Price, reaffirming that detained migrants can still have access to an abortion in light of the high court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to The Wall Street Journal, which saw the memo and was the first to report about it.

The ruling has created a patchwork of states that have banned or restricted access to the medical procedure.

“This memorandum serves as a reminder of existing ICE policies and standards requiring that pregnant individuals detained in ICE immigration custody have access to full reproductive health care,” Johnson said to Price, according to the Journal. 

“This is also a reminder that, pursuant to existing ICE policy, it may be necessary to transfer a detained pregnant individual within an area of responsibility (AOR) or to another AOR, when appropriate and practicable, in order to ensure such access.”

ICE would be the first federal law enforcement agency where reproductive rights have been reinforced since the Supreme Court’s decision, according to news reports. The memo is anticipated to be sent later in the week.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) consistently provides the workforce with updates, reminders, or guidance on new policies or federal law,” an ICE spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill. 

“ICE will continue to comply with federal law and abide by current detention standards which ensure that pregnant detainees in custody have access to pregnancy services, including routine and/or specialized prenatal care, pregnancy testing, comprehensive counseling and assistance, postpartum follow up, lactation services and abortion services.”

President Biden last week signed an executive order aimed at trying to preserve some access to the procedure, though the president and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra have noted that codifying abortion rights through Congress remains a stronger way to protect abortion access. 

Some states’ bans have been paused amid pending legal action, though others have been allowed to proceed for the time being.

ICE’s guidance pertaining to abortion access has been that ICE will cover the cost of an abortion in cases of rape or incest or if necessary to protect the life of the pregnant person. 

Updated July 13 at 12:41 p.m.

Tags Abortion abortion rights Abortion ruling Biden ICE Immigration and Customs Enforcement Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Tae Johnson Xavier Becerra

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