Federal Judge Rules Against Trump Administration, Allows Undocumented Teens Access to Abortions

By Ayana Byrd Apr 02, 2018

On Friday (March 30), a federal judge issued a temporary injunction that prevents the Trump administration from interfering with the rights of young women with undocumented status to obtain abortions.

The case, Garza v. Hargan, is the result of a filing in October by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who requested that a federal court in Washington, D.C. allow a teenage girl from Central America to have an abortion. Per NPR:

At the time [of the filing], she was detained in Texas and federal officials would not let her leave her shelter for the procedure. Government lawyers argued that the Trump administration was focused on "child birth and fetal life," which meant it didn’t have to help her move forward in her efforts to get an abortion. Eventually she was able to receive the procedure.

Under the administration of former President Barack Obama, the Office of Refugee Resettlment (ORR) permitted pregnant women of undocumented status in U.S. custody to have abortions if they elected to do so. If the woman was a teenager who was pregnant as a result of rape or incest—or if the pregnancy could endanger the mother’s life—the federal government paid for the medical service. 

As Colorlines previously reported, per the Trump administration’s immigration policy, unaccompanied minors seeking an abortion must receive permission from the director of ORR Scott Lloyd—who has no medical experience and a public anti-choice stance.

Lloyd has been compared to a “foster parent” by a spokesperson for ORR, and he has inserted himself into efforts to keep young women from having the procedure. In December, he said in a deposition for the case that he feels that immigrants have no right to abortion because of their immigration status.

In her 28-page opinion, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia wrote, “The court concludes that ORR’s policies and practices infringe on female [unaccompanied immigrant minor children]’s constitutional rights by effectively prohibiting them from ‘making the ultimate decision’ on whether or not to continue their pregnancy prior to viability—a quintessential undue burden.” 

Per The New York Times:

In issuing the preliminary injunction, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of United States District Court barred the government from interfering with hundreds of teenagers’ access to medical appointments, counseling, abortion procedures or other care, writing that the government’s practice of doing so infringed on the teenagers’ constitutional rights.

Judge Chutkan also allowed the case to proceed as a class action that will include four plaintiffs whose high-profile cases date to October 2017.

Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project responded to the order via a statement:

The Trump administration’s cruel policy of blocking young immigrant women in federal custody from accessing abortion is a blatant abuse of power. We are relieved that the court issued an order preventing the administration from continuing this practice while our case proceeds. With today’s rulings, we are one step closer to ending this extreme policy once and for all and securing justice for all of these young women.