The Biden administration instructed officials caring for unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody to ensure access to abortion by transporting them to areas of the country where the procedure is legal, according to a Department of Health and Human Services memorandum published Thursday.
Shelter officials are instructed to relocate pregnant unaccompanied migrant girls to areas of the country that allow abortion, according to the memo. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, leaving abortion legalization up to states.
HHS says that high court decision motivated its guidance to ensure abortion access for unaccompanied migrant girls.
Many migrant children are victims of sexual violence before they make it to the U.S. It’s a problem with lasting consequences, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Violence has detrimental effects by merely being a witness to it. Whether the children witness it with their eyes tightly closed, the sounds of a predator preying on anyone will haunt them forever. There are a lack of consequences for those that victimize migrants throughout their journey. Migrants are victimized from every level of criminal to officials abusing their authority,” the DHS official said.
“HHS continues to work to evaluate the impact of the Supreme Court decision on its programs and as a result today has updated ACF policies and guidance in compliance with the law as necessary. ACF is committed to supporting access to essential health care, including reproductive health care, for all the populations we serve,” HHS’ Administration for Children and Families told the DCNF.
Its unclear how many pregnant unaccompanied migrant girls are currently in HHS custody.
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“This Field Guidance confirms that ORR [Office of Refugee Resettlement] staff and care providers must not prevent UC [Unaccompanied Children] from accessing legal abortion- related services and that ORR staff and care providers must make all reasonable efforts to facilitate access to these services if requested by the UC. This may involve transporting a minor to a state in which abortion is lawful and available, if the minor is currently in a state in which abortion is not lawful or available,” the memo stated.
“This Field Guidance provides instructions to ORR staff on the intake and initial placement of pregnant UC and UC who have experienced sexual violence, as well as the transfer of pregnant UC, including UC seeking an abortion. The guidance applies to staff who are providing direct care to UC at all ORR-funded facilities, including Emergency Intake Sites and Influx Care Facilities,” it added.