Jul 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Detained migrants can still access abortions, ICE says

US Acting Director of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Tae Johnson
U.S. acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Tae Johnson. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says any pregnant immigrants in its custody will still have access to abortion services when requested, according to a memo reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: ICE would be the first law enforcement agency to reinforce its health policies protecting pregnant people after the overturning of Roe v Wade. The administration is looking into ways to ensure similar protections for other populations in its custody, according to one source involved in the discussions.

Under Biden, ICE avoids detaining pregnant people, but in the rare instances it does, those migrants will now have more access to reproductive health care than citizens in several states.

  • Policies have not changed, but the memo — addressed to the head of ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations and expected to be sent out this week — reminds officials that "pregnant individuals detained in ICE immigration custody have access to full reproductive health care."
  • Given the abortion bans being implemented in states "it may be necessary to transfer a detained pregnant individual" to another location to ensure they are able to access the medical procedures requested, the memo continues.

What to watch: The administration is looking into ways to double down on similar protections for other populations in its custody, according to one source involved in the discussions.

  • This could include people under house arrest, the roughly 300,000 migrants now in alternative to detention programs or their family members, and teens who crossed the border alone and are in other government shelters.

Flashback: The Trump administration tried to block access to abortion for migrants in its custody, but a federal court in 2019 ruled against them — allowing a 17-year-old to terminate her pregnancy.

The details: ICE's detention standards require any individual to be placed somewhere where they have access to appropriate medical and mental health care.

  • The new memo says "access to appropriate medical care necessarily includes access to preventative female health services, as medically appropriate."
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