The Trump administration tried and failed this week to prevent two undocumented teenagers from obtaining abortions while in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The cases of Jane Roe and Jane Poe came just two months month after that office had tried and failed to block another undocumented teen, identified in that case as Jane Doe, from accessing the procedure. In each case, a judge ordered federal officials to allow the teenagers to terminate their pregnancies.
On Thursday, the government released part of a previously sealed letter written by ORR Director Scott Lloyd that articulates the office’s position in stark terms—and makes clear that it will continue to obstruct access to the procedure for immigrants in its custody: “In this request [for an abortion], we are being asked to participate in killing a human being in our care.”
More from the letter (emphasis mine):
We have in our custody an unaccompanied alien child (UAC) who is years old and who reported that she was sexually assaulted in her home country. Based on the timeframe she provided for the sexual assault, we have reason to believe that this assault resulted in her current pregnancy. [...]
I am mindful that abortion is offered by some as a solution to a rape. In fact, some would suggest that, by declining to assist in the abortion we are in some way engaging in a form of violence against the mother, as in the notion that ORR is forcing her to carry her pregnancy to term. I disagree. Implicit here are the dubious notions that it is possible to cure violence with further violence, and that the destruction of an unborn child’s life can in some instances be acceptable as a means to an end. To decline to assist in an abortion here is to decline to participate in violence against an innocent life. She remains pregnant, but this is not the intent of our actions. Moral and criminal responsibility for the pregnancy lies with the attacker, and no one else.
“It confirms in detail what we’ve been saying in this case: ORR has a policy of first trying to coerce young women to carry their pregnancies to term; when that fails, they outright block them from obtaining care,” Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued the government on behalf of the teenagers, tells Splinter. “There is no exception, clearly, if the pregnancy is a result of rape. We have that here in black and white.”
Amiri went on to say that the ACLU will be filing a reply brief asking for the release of the full document. And while the young immigrant women can proceed with accessing care, the case remains open as the ACLU seeks to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of all minors in ORR custody. The aim is to get the policy overturned, Amiri says.
You can read the rest of the redacted document here: