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AAUW Legal Advocacy:
From the AAUW LAF, Sept 2018

AAUW Signs on to Amicus Brief in Immigrant Abortion Access Case

In Azar v. Garza (formerly Garza v. Hargan), the issue before the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is whether the government can set and enforce policies that veto an individual’s right to access abortion care; intimidate and coerce individuals who choose to end their pregnancies; and do so on the basis of the individual’s age and immigration status.

AAUW signed onto an amicus brief asking the D.C. Circuit to affirm the class certification and preliminary injunction issued by the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which would allow access to abortion without the interference of this government policy despite immigration status. The district court order defined the class as all pregnant, unaccompanied immigrant minors who are or will be in the legal custody of the federal government.

This amicus brief was offered in support of Jane Doe, Jane Moe, Jane Poe, and Jane Roe (“the Janes”) and a class of unaccompanied immigrant minors in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), who are being denied access to abortion. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) represents the Janes and filed a preliminary injunction on their behalf, describing attempts by ORR Director Scott Lloyd to personally coerce young women to carry their pregnancies to term instead of having an abortion, and to personally force them to go to religiously-affiliated “crisis pregnancy centers.”

On October 13, 2017, the ACLU filed an emergency lawsuit in federal court to fight on behalf of Jane Doe, who was being prevented from accessing abortion care. On October 18, 2017, the district court granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the government from interfering with Jane Doe’s access to her abortion provider, but the government sought an emergency stay of that order from the D.C. Circuit.

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit set aside key parts of the temporary restraining order and sent the case back to the district court to see if Jane Doe could find a sponsor to whom ORR could transfer custody before the end of October. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, nominee for the U. S. Supreme Court, was seated on this three-judge panel and ruled to delay the abortion, holding this did not unduly burden her right to an abortion. Four days later, the full D.C. Circuit panel of judges reheard the case and ruled that the young woman was entitled to exercise her right to choose without delay. Judge Kavanaugh dissented from that second decision, adopting troubling language in his opinion and signaling his lack of support for this constitutional right.

Choice in the determination of one’s reproductive life and increased access to health care and family planning services are core tenants of AAUW policy. AAUW signed onto this brief because we support the civil and human rights of all immigrants. We also support international family planning programs that are consistent with AAUW policy.

The procedural history of this case has been long and protracted, with various challenges from the government. The government’s appeal of the district court’s preliminary injunction and class certification are scheduled for oral argument on September 26.

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