If the American Civil Liberties Union has its way, Catholic Charities and other faith-based organizations providing care for illegal alien minors will be forced to proclaim to the girls in their care during the shelter’s orientation that they have a “right” to an abortion. The ACLU seeks to compel this speech under the auspices of providing “notice” to the members of the recently certified class action in Garza v. Hargan.
The Garza case first made headlines in October of 2017, when the ACLU sued the federal government, trying to force the Office of Refugee Resettlement to release unadmitted illegal alien minors to obtain abortions. The ORR countered that its refusal to facilitate abortions for minors within its care did not create a substantial burden under Supreme Court abortion jurisprudence because the minor could voluntarily return to her own country of origin or seek release to a sponsor. In response, the ACLU stressed that it did not want the government’s assistance, but merely wanted the ORR to allow others to transport the girl to an abortion clinic, pay for her abortion, and then return her to federal custody.
The ACLU’s argument convinced a federal district court judge to order the government to release the plaintiff, identified only as J.D., and the D.C. Circuit, hearing the case en banc — meaning all active members of the court participated in the case — affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Before the DOJ had a chance to appeal, J.D. had her abortion, prompting the government to ask the Supreme Court to vacate the circuit court’s decision. That petition is pending.
Meanwhile, the ACLU added as plaintiffs three individuals, Jane Moe, Jane Poe, and Jane Roe. The district court directed the ORR to release one of the girls for an abortion, while the ORR released the second girl to a sponsor, and the third girl was released on her own recognizance, after the government discovered she was, in fact, not a minor.
Even though the ACLU succeeded in obtaining abortions for (or release of) the four girls in ORR custody, it sought certification of a class action lawsuit with the class consisting of all pregnant unaccompanied minors held in government shelters. On March 30, 2017, federal judge Tanya Chutkan certified the ACLU’s requested class and entered a preliminary injunction against the ORR, requiring the federal government to facilitate abortions. As I explained at the time, Chutkan, a Barack Obama appointee, erred in certifying a class of all pregnant girls in ORR custody because a class action is only appropriate when there are “numerous” plaintiffs, and the ACLU only identified a handful of girls who wanted an abortion.
Following Judge Chutkan’s decision, the DOJ filed a motion to stay the ruling pending appeal, and promptly appealed to the D.C. Circuit. The ACLU opposed the motion for a stay and filed a motion for “notice of the class.” In this motion, under the guise of providing “notice to the class” of “all pregnant unaccompanied immigrant minors who are or will be in Defendants’ legal custody,” the ACLU asked the court to “require ORR-funded shelters to orally … as part of the orientation for new unaccompanied minors,” inform girls that if they are pregnant they “have the right to decide whether to have the baby or to have an abortion.”
The ACLU also asked the court to require the ORR-funded shelters to provide this information again orally at the time a girl is informed she is pregnant. Additionally, the ACLU wants to force the ORR-funded shelters to post the notice in English and Spanish and to distribute a separate copy to the girls during orientation.
Through this motion, the ACLU has revealed its true intent — to push an abortion agenda on the pro-life Trump administration. And should the district court grant the ACLU’s motion, the impact would not be limited to government officials overseeing the ORR program. Rather, the ACLU seeks to subject all ORR-funded shelters to the court-ordered mandate, including those with religious or moral objections to abortions, such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The USCCB has already been targeted by the ACLU, with the ACLU suing the federal government in a district court in California, challenging the ORR grants awarded to the USCCB for the care of unaccompanied minors. In that lawsuit, the ACLU argues that the federal government has violated the Establishment Clause by awarding the USCCB ORR grants without requiring the Catholic organization to provide “reproductive health care,” to the minors in its custody. The ACLU’s claim is bunk, but that doesn’t mean that the USCCB is safe from the judicial gloss a California-based judge might add to the Establishment Clause.
The USCCB intervened in the California lawsuit to protect its rights to religious liberty. And briefing on the merits of the ACLU’s Establishment Clause claim in that case is currently underway. But while the USCCB defends itself in the California federal court, the ACLU’s attempt to compel USCCB-funded Catholic Charities to tell girls during orientation of their “right” to an abortion presents an even bigger threat to religious liberty. The USCCB has already received the ORR grants from the federal government and, in turn has awarded sub-grants to Catholic Charities located throughout the country to care for unaccompanied minors, on the condition that the Catholic Charities do “not provide, refer, encourage, or in any way facilitate access to contraceptives or abortion services.”
But now the ACLU seeks to compel Catholic Charities to refer all the girls whom it cares for to the ACLU to obtain abortion services, once again demonstrating that the ACLU will sacrifice religious liberty on the altar of abortion. And why not? If you are willing to sacrifice human beings in uterus in the name of reproductive freedom, a little thing like religious liberty won’t dissuade you.