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Tipsheet

Biden Admin Working to Protect Abortion Access for Immigrant Minors: Report

AP Photo/David Dermer

The Biden administration is reportedly working to protect abortion access for immigrant minors who are in government custody.

According to a Thursday report from CNN, pregnant minors in government custody are given a medical exam, pregnancy tests and other “needed services” like abortion through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Now that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the Biden administration is working to continue to protect access to the procedure for this group (via CNN): 

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The Department of Health and Human Services, for example, is charged with the care of migrant children who arrive in the United States without a parent or guardian until they're released to a sponsor, like a relative, in the country. Some of those minors can be pregnant when they come into custody, making the shifting legal landscape difficult for shelter providers to navigate.

"The Dobbs ruling has created an untenable and dangerous situation for pregnant girls in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, many of whom have fled from extreme violence and abuse," said Neha Desai, senior director of immigration at the National Center for Youth Law.

"It is critical that this administration take a stand to protect the basic health of these girls by issuing clear guidance ensuring access to abortion services for girls, regardless of what state they happen to be placed in," she added.

As of July 18, there were 11,483 children in HHS custody, according to government data. It's unclear how many pregnant girls are currently in custody, or how many have sought abortions.

Minors are given an initial medical exam, including a pregnancy test for girls. If pregnant, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency within HHS, usually places girls in licensed shelters that can provide needed services.

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The ORR released a policy memo about abortion for unaccompanied minors in 2020. A year later, when a “heartbeat” abortion law was enacted in Texas, the ORR released updated guidance on the issue to abortion providers in the state. 

“In general, ORR care providers are required to comply with state law governing access to abortion,” the 2021 guidance reads. It referred  to the “Garza” policy, which “provides instructions on requests for abortion and addresses confidentiality and notification procedures for UC [Unaccompanied Child] who are pregnant, considering an abortion, or have had an abortion.”

An ICE spokesperson told CNN that the agency “will continue to comply with federal law and abide by current detention standards which ensure that pregnant detainees in custody have access to pregnancy services, including routine and/or specialized prenatal care, pregnancy testing, comprehensive counseling and assistance, postpartum follow up, lactation services and abortion services.”

After Roe was overturned, President Biden came out saying that his administration was weighing executive orders on abortion rights. Shortly after, he signed an order and stated in remarks that he wants Congress to act on abortion policy. In the meantime, the HHS unveiled a Reproductive Rights website directing women, including minors, toward resources to obtain an abortion. 

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