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Court order: Government must allow illegal immigrant teens to get abortions

A federal court has ruled that the government must allow abortions for illegal immigrant teens who are being held in federal custody. Here, a protester in Chile is shown holding a model of an infant. (Claudio Reyes/Getty Images)

A federal court in Washington issued an order Friday that states the government cannot prevent illegal immigrant teens from having abortions while they are being held in federal custody, the Associated Press reported.

Specifically, the government cannot prevent “pregnant immigrant children in federal custody from accessing abortion counseling or abortions, among other things, while a lawsuit proceeds,” the order states.

How did this happen?

Lawyers for the Department of Health and Human Services had indicated the agency has a policy of “refusing to facilitate” abortions. The agency is responsible for sheltering children who enter the country illegally and are not accompanied by an adult.

Also on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan allowed the American Civil Liberties Union go forward with a class-action lawsuit on the alleged practice of hindering abortions for illegal immigrants.

"We have been able to secure justice for these young pregnant women in government custody who will no longer be subject to the government's policy of coercion and obstruction while the case continues," ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri told the Associate Press after the judge's order became public.

The government will be able to appeal the judge’s order, according to the report.

What is the background?

In 2017, a U.S. appeals court decided that a 17-year-old illegal immigrant in federal custody in Texas was allowed to have an abortion. The decision came despite objections by the Trump administration, Reuters news reported.

The ruling was “spearheaded by Democratic-appointed judges,” according to Reuters.

The 6-3 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was split along ideological lines, the report stated. Democratic-appointed judges supported the teenager who requested an abortion and Republican appointees siding with the Trump administration.

“Surely the mere act of entry into the United States without documentation does not mean that an immigrant’s body is no longer her or his own,” Judge Patricia Millett, appointed by Democratic former President Barack Obama, wrote in an opinion supporting the ruling in October.

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