A California judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit this week that challenges federal funding of Catholic Charities because they refuse to provide young refugees and immigrants with abortions or birth control.
Courthouse News reports the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this summer to stop them from giving federal funding to Catholic organizations that do not promote abortions or birth control.
The federal government filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds that the ACLU did not have standing to sue, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler denied the government’s motion on Tuesday and allowed the lawsuit to continue, according to the report.
“Congress mandated that the agency provide care to unaccompanied minors, and it authorized disbursements to provide that care,” Beeler wrote. “Because [HHS, through the Office of Refugee Resettlement] makes grants under that statutory mandate, the ACLU – through its taxpayer members – has standing.”
The lawsuit specifically mentions the case of 17-year-old “Rosa,” a immigrant who was raped by one of her guides and became pregnant on the way from Mexico to the U.S. According to the ACLU, Rosa was hospitalized to prevent her from committing suicide after Catholic Charities refused to help her abort her unborn child. She later got an abortion with the help of the refugee office, according to the report.
The ACLU argues that the government should not give money to the Catholic aid programs because the programs do not refer or provide abortions or birth control to young, unaccompanied minor refugees and immigrants like Rosa, the New York Times reports. In the lawsuit, it argues that the agencies are legally required to provide access to contraception and abortion because they receive government funding.
Many of the U.S. agencies that provide support to young refugees and immigrants are Catholic and “have a long history of providing high-quality care,” according to the Times. Elimination of their federal funding could damage immigrants’ and refugees’ access to much-needed support when their arrive in the U.S.
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According to the pro-abortion website Mother Jones, the Catholic agencies help young immigrants and refugees who are referred to them from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The agencies are supposed to screen them for abuse, and provide them with legal help, education, physical and mental health care and, according the ACLU, abortions, the report states.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which oversees the agencies, received almost $10 million in government funding to help unaccompanied minor immigrants and refugees in 2014, according to the report.
In a similar move earlier this year, the ACLU also filed a lawsuit in March against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to obtain its records about the federal funds it received to help human trafficking victims, LifeNews reported.
In a statement about the USCCB lawsuit, the ACLU admitted that it takes issue with the Catholic group for having the practices it does “because of its religious beliefs.” The practices it objects to, not surprisingly, involve opposing abortion.
The USCCB received a $2 million grant from the federal government recently to help the victims of human trafficking, according to the ACLU.
ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Brigitte Amiri said, “We are shocked and deeply concerned to see history repeating itself with millions of taxpayer dollars funneled into the hands of a religious group that has a long history of refusing critical health care services to the most vulnerable people in their care.”
By “critical health care” the ACLU means abortion; it claims that by not supporting abortion, these groups are “impos[ing] their religious beliefs on others.”