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US appeals court rules against automatic asylum for spouses in forced abortion cases

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled Monday that spouses and unmarried partners of women who face inhumane treatment under rigid Chinese population control measures do not automatically qualify for asylum [opinion, PDF] in the United States. The court said section 601(a) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 [text] explicitly protects those who are forced to "abort a pregnancy or to undergo involuntary sterilization, or who has been persecuted for failure or refusal to undergo such a procedure or for other resistance to a coercive population control program," but is unambiguous in not extending automatic refugee protection beyond that. The court acknowledged that by deciding the Board of Immigration Appeals [official website] incorrectly interpreted the statue, they were conflicting with decisions in a number of other circuits.

Last month the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled that the refugee statute applied broadly [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], and that an abortion forced on a woman by her employer was the same as one forced by the state under China's "One Child Policy" [backgrounder]. The Ninth Circuit also held that a "partner of a woman who had a forced abortion" is entitled to asylum. AP has more.

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