The federal government has informed shelters that house illegal immigrants that they are required to help unaccompanied minors seek abortions.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) issued a field guidance reminding ORR Staff and care providers that they cannot “prevent UC from accessing legal abortion-related services and that ORR staff and care providers must make all reasonable efforts to facilitate access to these services if requested by the UC.”
Shelters can be tasked with resettling unaccompanied minors in states that do not restrict abortion.
Care providers are also obligated by the federal agency’s directive to ask pregnant minor migrants about their “preference with regard to abortion access, confidentiality concerning their pregnancy, and transfer to access abortion care, if requested,” during their initial assessments.
“ORR will, to the greatest extent possible, transfer pregnant UC requesting an abortion to an ORR program that is state-licensed to care for pregnant UC and in an appropriate location to support the UC’s health care needs and access to an appropriate medical provider who is able to legally perform the requested abortion,” the guidance noted. “The pregnant UC must be informed of time-limiting factors that could impact their access to an abortion should they later request one.”
Any facility that received funding from the ORR and cares for unaccompanied children are subject to the guidance.
According to Fox News, “individuals within the ORR that have religious objections to abortion are not required to assist the procurement of an abortion, but are required to notify officials of any pregnant UC.”
CBS News reports a number of pregnant, underage female migrants have been transported to states with applicable abortion regulations.
“These youth, like everyone, should have access to abortion and reproductive healthcare,” Neha Desai, a lawyer at National Center for Youth Law, told the outlet. “I have spoken to hundreds of youth in custody who have survived unimaginable trauma, including girls that were gang raped, and girls that, for a variety of reasons, decided it was best for them not to carry pregnancies to term.”
“During the Trump administration, ORR prohibited staff from facilitating abortions without permission from the agency’s director,” reports Reuters. “In 2019, a U.S. appeals court said that policy was unconstitutional.”
The ORR is a subsection of the Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS Secretary Xavier Becerra was strongly opposed by Republicans when he was nominated by President Joe Biden in 2020 — largely because of his stance on immigration and abortion.
The former California Attorney General is an advocate of the Affordable Care Act and sued President Donald Trump’s administration over 100 times for issues relating to immigration, the environment, and healthcare. He has also argued in favor of decriminalizing illegal immigration.
Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton objected to Becerra’s lack of medical credentials or experience.
“What Becerra lacks in public-health experience, however, he makes up for in enthusiasm for his party’s most radical views,” he wrote in a statement prior to the DHHS Secretary’s confirmation.
While appearing before the House Committee on Education and Labor in April 2022, Becerra declined to affirm that partial-birth abortions are illegal when questioned by Indiana Representative Jim Banks.
“Under the Supreme Court decision in Roe versus Wade, women have reproductive rights that they are entitled to enforce and that they are entitled to have the government respect. I will do everything I can to make sure a woman’s rights and reproductive care are defended,” said Becerra during the exchange.
While serving in the US Congress, Bacerra voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act which was passed in 2003.