A federal appeals court today ruled the Trump administration must help pregnant illegal immigrants get abortions and overturned a pro-life policy preventing the facilitation of abortions.
In 2017, the Office of Refugee Resettlement issued a new policy requiring that taxpayer-funded shelters for immigrants and refugees offer life-affirming support to women and girls who are pregnant. The duties of the office including providing basic care, including health care, to unaccompanied immigrant children until they are placed with a family member or sponsor.
Director Scott Lloyd, a Trump appointee, said the shelters may not take “any action that facilitates” an abortion for unaccompanied minors without his direct approval.
“Grantees should not be supporting abortion services … only pregnancy services and life-affirming options counseling,” Lloyd said.
But attorneys general in 19 states urged a federal court to force the Trump administration to help facilitate abortions for illegal immigrant minors. They argued to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that all women on U.S. soil have a “constitutionally-protected right” to abortion.
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In the opinion, the judges wrote that they “are unanimous in rejecting the government’s position that its denial of abortion access can be squared with Supreme Court precedent.”
The judges noted in the opinion issued Friday that the policy only applies to minors in federal custody, and that undocumented immigrants 18 years or older in federal custody are allowed to obtain abortions. They also highlighted the policy’s lack of exemptions, including one for rape.
The court was divided in the opinion two to three: Judge Sri Srinivasan and Robert Wilkins, both Obama appointees ruled against the Trump administration. Senior Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan appointee, filed a dissenting opinion.
“To be sure, the ‘right to an abortion’ is viewed to have a ‘controversial nature,’ as to which people ‘sincerely hold directly opposing views,’” the judges said in their ruling, quoting from Supreme Court decisions. “But the Supreme Court ‘has determined and then redetermined that the Constitution offers basic protection to the woman’s right to choose.’ And we are not free to dilute a constitutional right recognized by controlling Supreme Court precedent—a right the government affirmatively assumes unaccompanied minors here have—so that others will be dissuaded from seeking a better life in this country.”
Judge Silberman took the court to task for endorsing abortion:
Silberman, reflecting on the merits of the case, embraced what he called a “persuasive prior opinion” written by then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh, while he was still on the D.C. Circuit.
In the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh lauded the government’s “permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion.” (Kavanaugh, now a Supreme Court justice, would be recused in the event the dispute did reach the high court.)
“I am afraid the majority’s refusal to consider narrowing the scope of the district court’s order justifies Judge Kavanaugh’s accusation that the court is endorsing abortion on demand—at least as far as the federal Government is concerned,” Siberman said Friday.
Several lawsuits arose last fall as a result of the policy, including demands from the ACLU that the Office of Refugee Resettlement help facilitate an abortion for an unaccompanied minor in Texas. “Jane Doe” aborted her 16-week unborn baby on Oct. 25, less than a day after a federal appeals court forced Trump administration officials to help facilitate the abortion.
In November, the Trump administration said the pro-abortion legal group deceived the government about when the teen’s abortion was scheduled. The administration said this prevented it from appealing the court ruling.
Then, in February, another pregnant illegal immigrant minor who possibly was entangled in the lawsuits said she no longer wanted two pro-abortion attorneys to represent her because she was choosing life for her unborn baby.
In a separate challenge, the ACLU also is suing to force the Trump administration to notify minors about their so-called right to abort their unborn babies.
The lawsuits are part of the ACLU’s larger agenda to force the government to help facilitate illegal immigrant minors’ abortions with taxpayer dollars.