Updated: June 14, 2019
On Friday, a U.S. appeals court ruled that the U.S. government cannot deny access to abortions for unaccompanied immigrant minors that are held in federal custody, a blow that now hits hard to a policy made by the Trump administration.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower court decision that found the government cannot prevent the ability of a woman to obtain an abortion under established Supreme Court precedent.
The case involves a 17-year-old girl, whose name and nationality was not publicly disclosed and went under the alias “Jane Doe” in legal documents. It is said that she came to the United States by herself in the year of 2017 and was placed in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which falls under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and houses immigrant children.
The girl, who was in the United States illegally, obtained an abortion after she sued the administration in federal court. However, last year, the Supreme Court allowed the litigation to continue in lower courts to determine the fate of other detained immigrants in similar situations.
In March 2017, the Office of Refugee Resettlement publicy announced that shelters were “prohibited from taking any action that facilitates an abortion without direction and approval from the Director.” Scott Lloyd, who become the director of the agency during that month, denied each abortion request presented to him during his term, even when a pregnancy was a result of rape, according to the appeals court ruling. Lloyd eventually left his post at the end of 2018.
“The policy functions as an across-the-board ban on access to abortion,” the appeals court ruling said.
The U.S. Justice Department declined to provide a comment regarding the case.