The surge of illegal immigrant children crossing the border also means a surge of pregnant girls in U.S. custody, according to new government figures made public late Monday, highlighting the latest test of Trump administration policies.
At least 420 pregnant Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) have been caught and put into government care over the last year, and 43 pregnant illegal immigrant girls were still in custody of the Health and Human Services Department as of Oct. 17, Jonathan White, the department’s director for children’s programs, said in court documents.
Of the 420 girls seen in fiscal year 2017, 18 requested abortions and 11 had them. Another five rescinded their request for an abortion, and two were turned over to sponsors in the U.S. before a final decision was made, Mr. White said, meaning they were outside of government custody.
The numbers come as the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a class action lawsuit demanding the government provide illegal immigrant girls the same rights to access abortion that Americans have.
The ACLU already won the first skirmish last month over a 17-year-old girl identified only as “J.D.” or “Jane Doe,” whose case went all the way to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a deeply divided panel of judges ruled the government had to facilitate her abortion, even if it meant spending taxpayer money.
The Trump administration is vehemently fighting the ACLU, saying that as of right now there are no pregnant girls in government custody seeking abortions so there’s no need for a class action lawsuit.
Government lawyers have also accused the ACLU’s lawyers of legal trickery, and have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and overturn the precedent set by the D.C. Circuit.
UACs are illegal immigrants under age 18 who are apprehended at the border. Under existing law they must be quickly processed by Homeland Security and released to social workers at HHS, who then try to place them with sponsors.
While in federal custody they are held in government-contracted shelters.
The Trump administration says HHS policy gives the government right of approval for all major surgery of UACs.
In the case of the 17-year-old, the government denied the request for an abortion.
The girl had fled Mexico, where her parents remained, and didn’t want to tell them she was pregnant nor to get their permission, which was required under Texas law before a minor can have an abortion. Instead she got a state judge’s permission, which is allowed under the state law.
She also had arranged funding for the abortion procedure itself, so it wouldn’t be at taxpayer expense, her lawyers said.
But HHS said even then, it was required to send a staffer with the girl, and to provide care afterward, which all involved taxpayer money facilitating an abortion — something the government said broke the law.
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