A federal judge in Washington issued a sweeping order on Friday that temporarily prevents the government from blocking access to abortion services for undocumented, pregnant minors who have been detained in federal immigration custody.
In issuing the preliminary injunction, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of United States District Court barred the government from interfering with hundreds of teenagers’ access to medical appointments, counseling, abortion procedures or other care, writing that the government’s practice of doing so infringed on the teenagers’ constitutional rights.
Judge Chutkan also allowed the case to proceed as a class action that will include four plaintiffs whose high-profile cases date to October 2017.
Since March 2017, the Office of Refugee Resettlement had instructed employees at federally funded shelters to not take “any action that facilitates an abortion without direction and approval from the director of O.R.R.,” court documents say. The Trump administration has argued that their policies do not create a so-called undue burden because undocumented teenagers seeking an abortion can obtain one by finding a sponsor or voluntarily deporting themselves to their home country.
“This court does not find that either of these ‘options’ mitigates the undue burden that O.R.R.’s policy imposes on the young women in its custody,” Judge Chutkan wrote, calling the government’s proposal a “Hobson’s choice.”
While the Office of Refugee Resettlement and its director “are certainly entitled to maintain an interest in fetal life,” and even to prefer that pregnant teens in their custody choose one course over the other, federal officials “may not create or implement any policy that strips” the undocumented children “of their right to make their own reproductive choices,” Judge Chutkan, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, continued.
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