The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) added the case of an unaccompanied minor, who came into the U.S. illegally and is not being given abortion access by the government, to their June lawsuit against the federal government for awarding grant money to religious organizations, such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that help unaccompanied minors but won’t refer them for abortions.
The lawsuit, Doe v. Lloyd, was initially aimed at those with religious objections to referring or providing abortions for illegal immigrants but according to the ACLU’s most recent court filing, “In March of 2017, ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) announced that federally funded shelters are prohibited from taking ‘any action that facilitates’ abortion for these unaccompanied minors in their care without ‘direction and approval’ from the Director of ORR Director Scott Lloyd.”
They argue in their new request for a preliminary injunction in San Francisco Court that this policy is unconstitutional because it prevents minors, including the one in this most recent case who is referenced as Jane Doe, from exercising their “fundamental constitutional right to an abortion.”
“The Trump administration’s action is shocking — a young woman is essentially being held hostage and forced by federal officials to continue a pregnancy against her will,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “And this case isn’t the only one — nationally, the federal government is obstructing young immigrant women’s access to abortion. It’s blatantly unconstitutional, not to mention unconscionable.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed an amicus curiae brief on the side of the federal government, doesn’t see it that way.
“No federal court has ever declared that unlawfully-present aliens with no substantial ties to this country have a constitutional right to abortion on demand,” Paxton pointed out in a statement Tuesday. “If ‘Doe’ prevails in this case, the ruling will create a right to abortion for anyone on earth who enters the U.S. illegally. And with that right, countless others undoubtedly would follow. Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions.”
Paxton says that “Texas has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life, as well as an interest in promoting respect for human life at all stages in a pregnancy.”
The addition of the case of Jane Doe, who is in a shelter funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Brownsville, to the ACLU's original lawsuit is also “unrelated” to the initial religious freedom dispute, according to the brief.
“'Doe' first filed a lawsuit in Texas state court, seeking to compel Health and Human Services to take her to get an abortion,” according to Paxton’s office. “Now the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is asking a federal court in San Francisco to allow it to add ‘Doe’ to a pending lawsuit against Health and Human Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over a completely unrelated dispute.”