The United States Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that the Trump administration cannot prevent an unaccompanied illegal alien minor from obtaining an abortion while in federal custody. The three-judge panel said "the government cannot unduly burden the ability of a woman to obtain an abortion under established Supreme Court precedent," Reuters reported.
"We are unanimous in rejecting the government's position that its denial of abortion access can be squared with Supreme Court precedent," the opinion said, ABC News reported.
The case came about as a result of a 17-year-old girl – referred to only as "Jane Doe" in legal papers – who came to the United States illegally in 2017 and was in custody under the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement. Their shelters announced back in March 2017 that they were “prohibited from taking any action that facilitates an abortion without direction and approval from the Director.”
The girl in the case successfully sued the White House and obtained an abortion. Her name and nationality were not disclosed.
According to the Appellate Court's decision, the Office of Refugee Resettlement's policy "functions as an across-the-board ban on access to abortion."
The case was initially brought about by the American Civil Liberties Union who represented several of the pregnant illegal alien minors, all of whom were eventually able to obtain an abortion. The policy hasn't been in effect since a lower court judge struck down the ban last year. Other unaccompanied minors at the shelter have been able to obtain abortions since then.
"The Trump administration's cruel policy of blocking young immigrant women in federal custody from accessing abortion was a blatant abuse of power," Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement following the ruling. "We are relieved that today's ruling continues to prevent the policy from taking effect while the case proceeds, and allows the case to proceed as a class action as we continue this fight."
In 2018 alone, 50,000 unaccompanied minors were referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement's 100 shelters across the United States. In fiscal year 2017, 18 unaccompanied minors requested abortions through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Reuters reported. We don't know how prevalent of an issue this is because fiscal year 2017 is the only year data was collected on this issue.
If the administration challenges the decision and the case goes to the Supreme Court, the decision could be a toss up. Justice Brett Kavanaugh would have to recuse himself from the case because he helped decide the case when it came before the D.C. Circuit Court. Based on the court's ideological makeup, it's likely that the justices would be split 4-4.