Trump Administration Using New Tactics to Block Pregnant Teen Immigrants From Abortion Access

By Ayana Byrd May 09, 2018

The Department of Health and Human Service‘s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) continues to push its agenda to prevent pregnant teens of undocumented immigration status from accessing abortions.

On March 30, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction meant to block ORR from interfering with their rights to comprehensive care. The decision stemmed from 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.

As a result of the ruling, ORR was required to instruct shelters overseen by ORR that they must post notices that state the teens’ rights to abortion and list contact information for an attorney from the ACLU. Per The Texas Observer:


In response, ORR sent an email on April 20 to shelters nationwide ordering them to put up a notice next to the ACLU poster that says the agency will “provide prenatal and medical care” or help plan for adoption. Though the notice doesn’t mention abortion, it encourages pregnant teens to seek counseling at anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, listing three such organizations including the Sisters of Life, a group run by Catholic nuns who “vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.” The email also requires the nationwide distribution of a controversial Texas anti-abortion booklet called “A Woman’s Right to Know,” which contains false claims linking abortion to breast cancer, as well as information about Texas-specific anti-abortion laws.

The ACLU believes that these actions—both the email and the distribution of the booklet—undermine the judge’s ruling. Brigitte Amiri, a lead ACLU attorney on the case, told The Texas Observer, “The government certainly has been relentless in their attempts to find ways to force their anti-abortion beliefs on this population, and I feel like this is just another iteration of what they’ve done in the past.”

As Colorlines has previously reported, a spokesperson for ORR called director Scott Lloyd a “foster parent” to the minors. Lloyd has assisted efforts to keep young women from having the procedure; he does not have any medical experience and he has been vocal about his anti-choice stance. In December, he said in a deposition for the ACLU case that he feels that the impacted immigrants have no right to abortion because of their immigration status.

The ACLU is currently deciding its next steps. Amiri told The Texas Observer that the ORR’s actions are “incredibly confusing to this population that is already so marginalized and isolated.”