The Trump Administration Wants To Ban Abortion For Undocumented Teens In Its Custody

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The first time that much of the American public likely learned about Judge Brett Kavanaugh was in 2017, when he presided over a court that hesitated to grant a pregnant immigrant teen access to an abortion that she had requested. Now, this could become a more frequent occurrence, as the Trump administration is attempting to prevent all undocumented teens from getting abortions while in custody.

Lawyers for the Trump administration and the undocumented teens seeking abortions argued their cases in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in late September, The New York Times reported. The administration, the Justice Department lawyer claimed, “has a strong, legitimate and profound interest in the life of the child in the womb.”

This case first came up in court in March, when a judge in Washington D.C. issued an order that applied across the country, mandating that the administration could not block undocumented teens from abortion access, The Washington Post wrote. The Trump Justice Department then brought the case before the appeals court, arguing that the court should not require the government to “facilitate the termination of life through abortion.”

The ACLU has been fighting for undocumented teens' rights to abortion access, though, and a lawyer for the organization told Vox in April that “the government can’t ban abortion for anyone,” thanks to Roe v. Wade.

Government lawyer August Flentje, however, argued that the order forcing the administration to provide abortions was “inconsistent with their profound respect for life,” according to BuzzFeed News.

“This is an unprecedented expansion of abortion jurisprudence,” Flentje said, according to BuzzFeed. Flentje then laid out the policy that the government prefers, under which the teens' constitutionally mandated right to an abortion would only be available to them if they left government custody to go to a sponsor or if they left the country entirely.

The push to block undocumented teens from abortion access stems from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is led by noted abortion-opponent E. Scott Lloyd. Lloyd has referred to abortion as “violence that has the ultimate destruction of another human being as its goal” and pushed for women to undergo a procedure meant to reverse abortions, despite the fact that this procedure has not been well tested.

In December 2017, Lloyd said in a deposition that undocumented teens' immigration status is reason enough for denying them abortions. A lawyer for the ACLU, however, called the administration's policies "a blatant abuse of power," according to NPR.

"The Trump administration's cruel policy of blocking young immigrant women in federal custody from accessing abortion is a blatant abuse of power," ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project Deputy Director Brigitte Amiri said in a statement, according to NPR, after a court issued the order blocking the administration's policies in March. "We are relieved that the court issued an order preventing the administration from continuing this practice while our case proceeds."

Six months after that, though, the question of whether the administration will succeed in blocking pregnant teens from accessing abortion is very much still an open one.