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August 7, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL MADIGAN DEFENDS UNACCOMPANIED IMMIGRANT MINORS’ ACCESS TO CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED ABORTION SERVICES

Madigan & 18 Attorneys General Oppose Federal Policy Blocking Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors in Federal Custody from Accessing Abortion Services

Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan today joined with 18 other attorneys general to file an amicus brief challenging a federal policy that prohibits unaccompanied immigrant minors in federal custody from accessing abortion services.

Madigan and the other attorneys general filed the brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, arguing that the federal government’s policy violates both states’ rights and the constitutional rights of women. The brief urged the court to affirm the district court’s decision granting a class-wide preliminary injunction to put a stop to the federal government’s policy.

“All women have a legal right to abortion,” Madigan said. “The federal government cannot force women to continue a pregnancy. I will continue to fight to ensure all women can make their own health care decisions.”

The Office for Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is the federal agency responsible for the care and custody of all unaccompanied immigrant minors, many of whom enter the U.S. after fleeing from abuse in their home countries. In March 2017, ORR adopted a policy that requires its Director Scott Lloyd to personally review every minor’s request for abortion services, even if that minor had complied with all applicable state-law requirements for obtaining an abortion in the state. Since then, Lloyd has rejected every request for abortion services, including in cases where a minor became pregnant as the result of rape in her home country. Lloyd has prohibited all ORR-affiliated shelters from taking minors to a doctor who will provide abortions and further instructed shelters to interfere with minors’ access to state-court judicial bypass proceedings. In addition, Lloyd has instructed shelters to disclose minors’ pregnancies to their parents and other family members, often overriding a minor’s express desire not to inform her family due to justified fear of reprisal.

ORR’s policy first came to light in October 2017, when ORR blocked access to abortion services for a minor named Jane Doe. Doe successfully obtained a temporary restraining order against ORR, and a federal district court subsequently granted another temporary restraining order to prohibit ORR from blocking two additional minors from accessing abortion services, including Jane Poe, a 17-year old who became pregnant as the result of rape and was denied access to an abortion by Lloyd. In January 2018, a fourth minor moved for a temporary restraining order and was released from federal custody within days of her court filing. In March 2018, the district court granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification and issued a class-wide preliminary injunction barring ORR from blocking minors’ access to abortion services and from disclosing minors’ reproductive decisions without non-coerced consent. ORR appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and the amicus brief filed today urges the court to affirm the district court’s decision.

In their brief, Madigan and the other attorneys general argue that ORR has no authority to disregard the states’ laws and procedures regarding minors’ ability to access abortion services. The brief also argues that under the Supreme Court’s controlling “undue burden” standard no third party may exercise an absolute veto over a woman’s reproductive choices. Accordingly, the federal government may not prohibit minors from exercising the choice to terminate a pregnancy that the federal Constitution and state law permit those minors to make.

Joining Madigan in filing the amicus brief were the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

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