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Immigrant Access to Abortion

is being restricted by the administration’s Office of Refugee Resettlement

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Why It Matters

  • The Trump-Pence administration introduced a new policy that requires immigrants under the age of 18 who are in custody with the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to get the government’s approval to access safe, legal abortion.

  • The new policy aims to block young immigrant women from accessing abortion safely and legally.

  • The policy has been used to deny every request for abortion made so far, but all of the women requesting access have found a way around the new policy — including through a recent injunction that puts the policy on hold for now.

Key Players

Scott Lloyd

Former Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS)

Resigned: June 2019
Alex Azar

Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Nominated by Trump: 11-13-2017
William Barr

U.S. Attorney General (DOJ)

Nominated by Trump: 1-3-2019
Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. Attorney General (DOJ)

Resigned: 11-07-2018

Timeline

“This is my life, my decision. I want a better future. I want justice.”

Interfering in Immigrants’ Access to Safe, Legal Abortion

The administration's policy to interfere in immigrants’ access to safe, legal abortion affects the hundreds of pregnant, undocumented immigrant women who are in ORR’s custody every year. These women, who are age 17 or younger, are often alone and facing language and cultural barriers.

Background on the Office of Refugee Resettlement's Interference With Access to Abortion

Scott Lloyd — the Man Behind the Policy

Former ORR Director Scott Lloyd helped create the policy — which gives the refugee office director final say in whether young immigrant women can access safe, legal abortion. He is the one who gets to decide.

Tracking Trump: Scott Lloyd
Blocking Abortion Access is Unconstitutional

In one of many such cases, the ACLU sued the ORR in October 2017 for unconstitutionally blocking a young undocumented woman in its custody from access to abortion and violating the constitutional right to abortion. The policy has been fiercely defended by Secretary of HHS Alex Azar and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions — even though it’s clearly unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

The Hill
Tracking Undocumented Girls’ Periods

According to documents released by MSNBC and American Bridge in March 2019, the government was not just tracking pregnant people. Reports indicate that the ORR director was also tracking the menstrual cycles of undocumented girls in its custody — ostensibly to find out if they became pregnant. Former ORR Director Scott Lloyd denied this under oath, but the revelations in the news spurred members of Congress to ask Lloyd to clarify.

Hip Latina
Women Were Able to Access Safe, Legal Abortion

The ORR denied at least seven young women’s requests for abortion — even when the pregnancy resulted from rape. All of these women were ultimately able to access abortion despite the government’s extreme efforts.

New York Times
Extreme Control Over Pregnant Detainees

In an overreach of power, the ORR director received a weekly updated spreadsheet on the condition of every pregnant teen in its custody. Under Director Scott Lloyd, the ORR went so far as to consider forcing a teenage girl in custody to undergo an experimental and unproven treatment to "reverse" an abortion.

Vice
Detaining Pregnant Immigrants and Not Taking Care of Them

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used to have limits on detaining pregnant immigrants that almost always required releasing them on bond or under supervision. However, the administration has expanded ICE’s power to detain pregnant immigrants. The new policy to hold pregnant immigrants in custody during their immigration proceedings is having devastating effects on the detained women, their pregnancies, and their families. The number of undocumented women who had miscarriages while in government detention nearly doubled in the administration’s first two years.

Tracking Trump: Detaining Pregnant Immigrant Women

Related Issues

Legal Status for Dreamers

Detention of Pregnant Immigrants

2020 Census

Separating Immigrant Families

Asylum

Public Benefits for Immigrants