The American Civil Liberties Union (including the Reproductive Freedom Project and Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief of the National ACLU, and the affiliates serving Northern and Southern California and the District of Columbia) brought an emergency lawsuit in federal court on October 13, 2017, on behalf of a young woman who was being denied access to abortion care by the Trump administration.
In this case, the ACLU represented Jane Doe, a pregnant teenager residing at a Texas facility for unaccompanied immigrant youth, after the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) prohibited her from having an abortion. Our client went to court with the help of a lawyer and a court-appointed guardian and obtained the required judicial waiver. After the District Court for the District of Columbia and the en banc Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in her favor, Jane Doe obtained an abortion on October 25.
The case continued, with the ACLU asking the courts to declare the Trump Administration's policy of preventing young women from getting abortions declared unconstitutional because, regrettably, Jane Doe was not the only unaccompanied minor who experienced obstructions to abortion access at the hands of federal officials. In one instance, a young woman who had taken abortion medication was compelled to go to the hospital to try stop her from having the abortion. Another young woman who was considering having an abortion was personally contacted by Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Scott Lloyd in an effort to change her mind. In March 2018, the District Court certified the matter as a class action and granted a preliminary injunction blocking the government from interfering with unaccompanied minors’ access to abortion, including medical visits, court hearings, counseling, and other pregnancy-related care. The government appealed, but in June 2019 the Court of Appeals affirmed both class certification and the preliminary injunction as to health care access. The D.C. Circuit also ordered further fact development as to minors’ privacy rights and government disclosures of information about the health care decisions of young people in its custody.
The parties achieved a settlement in September 2020. HHS adopted a new policy under which it would not interfere with immigrant minors’ access to abortion and related services and would strictly limit disclosure of minors’ pregnancy and abortion information. The government committed to give the ACLU two weeks' notice before making any changes to the new policy. The government agreed to post a Know-Your-Rights notice regarding this new policy in both Spanish and English in government-funded immigrant shelters. The government consented to cover plaintiffs’ legal bills and litigation expenses. The ACLU then voluntarily dismissed the case.