ACLU Challenges Government Policy of Forcing Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors to Carry Pregnancies Against Their Will

WASHINGTON — A federal judge today granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the Trump administration from blocking two more young immigrant women from obtaining abortions. The judge however put the ruling on hold for 24 hours to allow the government time to seek a stay from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Pursuant to a new policy, earlier this year, the Trump administration barred Jane Doe, an unaccompanied immigrant minor in custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), from obtaining an abortion for a month. After weeks of litigation culminating in a decision from the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the ACLU obtained a court order preventing the government from continuing to obstruct Jane Doe’s ability to get an abortion. As in the recent Jane Doe case, these young women, known to the court as Jane Roe and Jane Poe, each requested abortion care but the ORR has refused to allow them to get the procedure.

“The judge’s decision is a reminder that both the law and justice are on our side. We’ve already seen the courts rule in favor of Jane Doe, and today justice prevailed for two more young women like her,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Unfortunately, the Trump administration has shown no indication that they’ll abandon their cruel and dystopian crusade to block abortion access for some of the most marginalized people in our country. We’re prepared to keep fighting for as long as we need to.”

The Trump administration has adopted a policy preventing unaccompanied minors in the custody of ORR from obtaining abortions. As today’s decision shows, Jane Doe’s case wasn’t an isolated one. In fact, there are hundreds of pregnant minors in ORR custody each year. For that reason, the ACLU has asked the court to certify a class of pregnant women in ORR custody and to prevent the government from applying this policy against any of them.

In addition to the outright ban on abortions, the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the policy, Garza v. Hargan, has documented other egregious and unconstitutional harms other young women in ORR detention, including:

  • Requiring pregnant teens to go to a religiously affiliated, anti-abortion counseling centers to pressure them to continue their pregnancy;
  • Requiring a pregnant teen to have a medically unnecessary sonogram against her will;
  • Blocking pregnant teens from travelling to medical visits;

The director of ORR, Scott Lloyd, has personally contacted young women to convince them to carry their pregnancies to term instead of having an abortion. ORR directs shelters not to allow minors to seek judicial bypass of a state’s parental consent law for abortion, or allow them to meet with attorneys, without explicit approval Lloyd. In one case, a young woman was forcibly sent to an emergency room after she’d taken the abortion pill to try to prevent her from completing the abortion.

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; and Mishan R. Wroe of the ACLU of Northern California.

Stay informed

ACLU of the District of Columbia is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National