Department of Justice lawyers appealed a D.C. Circuit court ruling Monday, by Obama appointee Judge Tanya Chutkan, which was issued against the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement’s policy of refusing to facilitate abortions for unaccompanied minors in their custody. The ruling also allowed the American Civil Liberties Union’s case against the policy to go forward as a class action lawsuit.
The case of Jane Doe, an unaccompanied minor who sought and ultimately obtained an abortion while in one of ORR’s federally funded shelters, started the legal battle between the Trump administration and the ACLU on the issue in October. The DOJ filed a Supreme Court petition in the case of Doe in November, arguing that ACLU attorneys misled them as to the timing of her abortion before they had a chance to file an appeal in the case.
Democrats and abortion groups have been calling for the firing of ORR Director Scott Lloyd over the policy, but HHS Secretary Alex Azar defended Lloyd last month saying it was longstanding HHS policy to have the ORR Director sign off on serious medical procedures for unaccompanied minors in their custody.
“The Department of Health & Human Services strongly maintains that taxpayers are not responsible for facilitating the abortion of unaccompanied minors who entered the country illegally and are currently in the government’s care," a spokesperson for HHS said in an initial response to Chutkan’s ruling last month.
“While ORR and its director are certainly entitled to maintain an interest in fetal life, and even to prefer that pregnant UC [unaccompanied immigrant minor children] in ORR custody choose one course over the other, ORR may not create or implement any policy that strips UCs of their right to make their own reproductive choices,” Chutkan claimed in her decision.
Brigitte Amiri, an attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, responded Monday to the news that the Trump administration is appealing the ruling.
“Yet again, the Trump administration has doubled down on their extreme anti-abortion and anti-immigrant agenda,” she said in a statement. “We have no intention of backing down until we put an end to ORR’s coercive and unconstitutional ‘no-abortion’ policy.”