Federal court prevents HHS from blocking undocumented immigrants’ abortions; government appeals

Federal court prevents HHS from blocking undocumented immigrants’ abortions; government appeals

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked [order, PDF] the Department of Health and Human Services [official website] from preventing two undocumented immigrants in federal custody from accessing abortion services. The government immediately appealed [notice, PDF] the decision.

The two minors, referred to as Jane Roe and Jane Poe, were placed in a federally-funded shelter after entering the US without authorization. When they learned of their pregnancies, the women requested that they be allowed to receive an abortion using private funds under an existing process established for such situations. According to her initial complaint, Jane Roe was prevented by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) [official website] from accessing abortion-related services, was “forced … to visit a religious, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center, and, over J.D.’s objections, told J.D.’s mother that J.D. was pregnant.” Jane Poe filed a declaration [text] on Saturday indicating similar treatment by ORR.

On Monday, the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ordered the government to transport the women “promptly and without delay, on such dates, to an abortion provider, in order to obtain any pregnancy or abortion-related medical care and to obtain the abortion procedure itself, in accordance with the abortion providers’ availability and any medical requirements.” The temporary restraining order also bars the government from interfering with Roe and Poe’s access to abortion-related services, notifying anyone of their pregnancies, and retaliating against either the women or the facilities in which they are housed.

The district court expressly delayed implementation of the order by 24 hours to provide the government an opportunity to appeal. A request for emergency stay [text, PDF] was filed within hours of the district court’s ruling, seeking to delay the restraining order for at least two weeks, pending both the appeal and ORR’s attempt to identify a suitable sponsor for Roe. Notably, the government’s requested a stay only as to Jane Roe, recognizing the “differing circumstances surrounding Ms. Poe’s case.”

Responding to the request, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] issued a per curiam order [text, PDF] staying enforcement of the order through Tuesday, and allowing the parties time to brief certain matters relevant to its decision on the emergency motion.

The government also asked [petition, PDF] the US Supreme Court [official website] to issue a stay pending the DC Circuit appeal.