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Trump Officials Lose Again in Effort to Keep Immigrant Teenagers From Receiving Abortion Care

Tina Vasquez

"These two cases show how the government continues to abuse its power by denying abortion access."

The Trump administration dropped its appeal of a court order requiring officials to allow two immigrant teenagers in federal custody to receive abortion care.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington issued a temporary restraining order Monday barring the Trump administration from preventing the teens—known as Jane Roe and Jane Poe—from leaving the shelters.

Unlike Jane Doe—the unaccompanied immigrant minor “held hostage” by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) this fall because she wanted to access abortion care—little is known about the teenagers whose stories emerged this week.

Trump administration lawyers said Monday that they would allow 17-year-old Jane Poe, who is 22 weeks pregnant, to have an abortion. In the case of Jane Roe, they asked the appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court to grant a two-week stay.

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But in court filings late Tuesday, government lawyers dropped their appeals and said they discovered a copy of Jane Roe’s birth certificate from her home country, demonstrating she is 19 years old—not, as she claims, 17.

Roe, who is ten weeks pregnant, was transferred from ORR to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which released her Tuesday night. ICE issued a policy in August 2016 recommending that pregnant people “generally not be detained,” as Rewire reported.

Under President Trump, conditions have significantly worsened for girls and women in federal immigration custody. The Trump administration in March implemented a revised policy “that allows [shelters] to wield an unconstitutional veto power over unaccompanied immigrant minors’ access to abortion,” according to court documents. This directive prevents unaccompanied immigrant minors in ORR’s care from obtaining abortion care by prohibiting federally funded shelters from taking “’any action that facilitates’ abortion access to unaccompanied minors in their care without ‘direction and approval’” from ORR Director Scott Lloyd. Advocates claim Lloyd is a religious extremist unqualified for his position as ORR director. He is considered by advocates to be an ideological pick by the Trump administration.

“We are pleased that these two young women are able to finally get the care they need. But the government’s policy is still in place,” Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “These two cases show how the government continues to abuse its power by denying abortion access. The ACLU will keep fighting until this dystopian policy is struck down, and we have justice for every Jane.”

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