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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 immigrants from accessing abortion safely and legally.

  • The policy has been used to deny every request for abortion made so far, but all of the immigrants requesting access to abortion 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

How We Got Here & Where We're Headed


  • What to expect next
    Despite an injunction, the government could continue pressuring refugees to not have abortions
  • 2-24-2020
    Public charge rule goes into effect nationwide

  • 1-27-2020
    Supreme Court rules that the administration can use its new “public charge” standard while lawsuits against it go forward

  • 9-1-2019
    Supreme Court temporarily permits third-country rule, which denies most asylum claims at the Southern border
  • 8-21-2019
    Trump administration announced a final "family detention" rule that would allow the administration to detain children indefinitely. The rule is currently scheduled to take effect Oct. 20.
  • 8-12-2019
    Trump administration issues final “public charge” rule designed to stop immigrants from accessing public benefits to which they are legally entitled; the rule will likely take effect on or around Oct. 15, 2019
  • 7-16-2019
    Rule issued that makes immigrants ineligible for U.S. asylum if they passed through Mexico — denying asylum to nearly all South American immigrants
View more +
  • 11-9-2018
    Trump announces a policy to severely restrict asylum for immigrants
  • 10-10-2018 
    Rule proposed to keep low-income immigrants from entering or staying in the U.S.
  • 9-7-2018
    Proposed family detention rule to let U.S. jail immigrant children indefinitely
  • 6-11-2018
    Jeff Sessions says immigrants fleeing
    domestic violence don’t qualify for asylum
  • 4-6-2018
    U.S. sharply increases
    separation of immigrant families at the border
  • 3-27-2018
    Administration says it plans to add a
    citizenship question to the 2020 Census
  • 12-18-2017
    Refugee office head says he
    interfered with undocumented women’s abortion access
  • 12-14-2017
    Administration starts detaining
    pregnant immigrants during legal proceedings
  • 10-10-2017
    ACLU sues ORR for blocking a detained undocumented woman’s
    access to abortion
  • 9-5-2017
    The administration announces it’s ending DACA


“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 immigrants, 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
Immigrants Were Able to Access Safe, Legal Abortion

The ORR denied at least seven young immigrants' 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.

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 pregnant people 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


Public Benefits for Immigrants

Immigrant Access to Abortion

The Muslim Ban

Pregnant Travelers