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ICE Promises Abortions for Undocumented Women

July 14, 2022

Immigrant women in custody are “still entitled to abortions,” announced the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Top immigration officials are planning on instructing detention centers around the country to allow pregnant women in custody to get abortions regardless of the recent overturning of Roe. v. Wade.

“This memorandum serves as a reminder of existing ICE policies and standards requiring that pregnant individuals detained in ICE immigration custody have access to full reproductive health care,” the memo made public by the Wall Street Journal states.

Lora Ries, Heritage Foundation’s director of Border Security and Immigration Center, responded to the news in an interview with The Washington Stand.

“The Biden administration has prevented ICE from doing what Congress directed the agency to do — enforce our immigration laws through detention, prosecution, and removals,” said Ries. Instead, the administration perversely uses ICE to carry out two of the administration’s favorite causes — illegal immigration and abortion.”

Ries fears that this will not only lead to political tensions but says, “This will further demoralize ICE agents, causing more to resign and making it harder to protect America and enforce our laws.”

Family Research Council’s director of Federal Affiars, Connor Semelsberger, explained that ICE officials are reinforcing a misguided policy that allows migrant women to receive abortions.

He proceeded to explain how this agenda was fought under the Trump administration when a pregnant 17-year-old girl who snuck across the Texas-Mexico border wanted an abortion. Her caregivers, who were part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ refugee program, refused her abortion for various reasons including the fact that she was a minor who entered the country illegally and did not have her parent’s consent to undergo the procedure.

“This led to a massive legal battle between the Department of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and the ALCU lawyers who sued on behalf of the detained immigrant [teenager] who wanted to seek an abortion,” Semelsberger explained. “But the goal of the Trump administration, as a pro-life administration, was that it is not their duty to facilitate detained immigrants seeking abortions in this country.”

After a three-year legal battle, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decided, in a 6-3 ruling, that the girl was entitled to an abortion and ordered that she be transported for the procedure immediately.

“It was a strong pro-life attempt by the Trump administration to stop immigrant women from seeking abortions,” Semelsberger recalled. “The Biden administration’s recent comments on ICE are more so just a reiteration of what the policy has been for several years now.”

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is no longer a constitutional right — making ICE’s decision to protect abortions for detained immigrants more complex. Since state laws on abortion differ, immigration officials announced that they will transfer women to another state for an abortion to evade local laws if the procedure is illegal in the state where she is detained.

The largest number of illegal immigrants enter the country through the southern border between Mexico and Texas. In September 2021, Texas passed a law banning abortion beyond six weeks of gestation and prohibiting health care providers from carrying out abortions. Therefore, Semelsberger explained that immigrant women in Texas seeking an abortion would most likely be taken to Colorado or Arizona for the procedure.

When asked whether this decision will violate the Hyde Amendment that prohibits taxpayer money from funding abortions, Semelsberger said it, unfortunately, does not.

“The Hyde Amendment applies to American citizens through the Medicaid program. This sort of is a gray area in some sense. So I don’t see a direct tension because thankfully the federal law is covered. ICE will allow immigrant women to seek abortions, but it most likely won’t be paid by our money as taxpayers. However, I do think this opens the door for the Biden administration to try that and see where they can abolish Hyde,” Semelsberger explained.

In closing, Ries said this administration’s inability to prevent migrants from entering the country illegally is at the core of this issue.

“The Biden administration’s open border policies and the known rapes that smugglers and cartel members commit along the illegal migration journey beg the question: How many of these women would not be pregnant if the administration instead prevented the illegal immigration in the first place? Prevention of illegal immigration, not the processing of it, is a far more humane approach.”

Deborah Laker serves as a staff writer at The Washington Stand.