March 31 (UPI) — A federal judge said Friday evening in a temporary order that federal officials cannot prevent undocumented immigrant minors in federal custody from getting abortions.
U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan said in the decision that the Office of Refugee Resettlement cannot take away a teen’s constitutional right “to make their own reproductive choices.”
Chutkan, based in Washington, D.C., said the policy isn’t subject to an administration’s preferences. She issued a similar ruling on two specific cases in December.
“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 wrote.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials argue against any taxpayer liability for such abortions.
“The Department of Health and 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 HHS spokesperson said in a report from The Hill. “We are working closely with the Justice Department to review the court’s order and determine next steps.”
Chutkan also allowed a class action to proceed, including four plaintiffs in cases dating back to October.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the class action, applauded the judge’s order.
“The Trump administration’s cruel policy of blocking young immigrant women in federal custody from accessing abortion is a blatant abuse of power,” ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project Deputy Director Brigitte Amiri said in a statement Friday night. “We are relieved that the court issued an order preventing the administration from continuing this practice while our case proceeds.”