The Biden administration issued a directive last Thursday stating that unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody must have access to abortion.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that is tasked with housing migrant children, issued Field Guidance making it an official policy that unaccompanied children must be given access to abortion if they want it. The directive also states pregnant girls should not be sheltered in states with pro-life protections, like Texas:
This Field Guidance confirms that ORR staff and care providers must not prevent [unaccompanied children] from accessing legal abortion-related services and that ORR staff and care providers must make all reasonable efforts to facilitate access to these services if requested by the [unaccompanied children]. This may involve transporting a minor to a state in which abortion is lawful and available if the minor is currently in a state in which abortion is not lawful or available.
According to ORR data, approximately one-third of the 123,000 migrant children taken into federal protection in 2021 were female, though there is no data as to how many of them were pregnant. By law, children under the age of 18 who enter the country without a parent or legal guardian are in the care and custody of the HHS.
An HHS spokesperson said that the policy change comes as a result of the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade, noting that the Biden administration is “committed to supporting access to essential health care, including reproductive health care, for all the populations we serve.”
Neha Desai, a lawyer at National Center for Youth Law who represents migrant children, told CBS News that the policy is important so that pregnant children do not have to undergo the “additional trauma” of giving birth.
“These youth, like everyone, should have access to abortion and reproductive healthcare,” Desai said. “I have spoken to hundreds of youth in custody who have survived unimaginable trauma, including girls that were gang raped, and girls that, for a variety of reasons, decided it was best for them not to carry pregnancies to term.”
Though there is no denying the trauma and violence of rape, women who have survived rape and undergone abortions have said that the abortion was worse than the rape and added more trauma. Many women who undergo abortions — even for reasons like rape — later experience profound grief and regret.
In addition, girls are at serious physical risk from abortion. Teens and young girls are up to twice as likely to suffer cervical lacerations during an abortion, and more likely to suffer post-abortion endometritis compared to women, most likely because they have smaller cervixes that are more difficult to dilate. They are also more likely than women to suffer post-abortion infections, which could lead to infertility and future ectopic pregnancies.
The new directive is just the latest pro-abortion move by the Biden administration, which has demonstrated that widespread abortion access is its top priority.