Judge tosses ACLU suit over abor­tion rights of im­mi­grants

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BAY AREA - By Bob Egelko

A fed­eral mag­is­trate in San Fran­cisco has dis­missed an Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union law­suit ac­cus­ing the govern­ment of vi­o­lat­ing the rights of young, un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants to abor­tion and con­tra­cep­tive care by plac­ing them in shel­ters run by Catholic or­ga­ni­za­tions.

T heA CLU first chal­lenged the prac­tice un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, which awarded con­tracts to the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops to run shel­ters for thou­sands of mi­nors who en­tered the United States on their own. The pol­icy dated back at least to the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, the ACLU said.

The case was put on hold af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued new or­ders in March 2017 pro­hibit­ing abor­tions for any im­mi­grant mi­nors in govern­ment-funded shel­ters. T heA CLU chal­lenged that pol­icy in a sep­a­rate law­suit in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and won a rul­ing this March restor­ing the youths’ ac­cess to

abor­tion. The or­ga­ni­za­tion then ar­gued in the San Fran­cisco case that Catholic-spon­sored shel­ters with govern­ment con­tracts were in­ter­fer­ing with the rights of young­sters in their care.

But U.S. Mag­is­trate Lau­rel Beeler said Thurs­day that Catholic shel­ters, while re­fus­ing to al­low abor­tions or con­tra­cep­tion for mi­nors in their care, have al­lowed them to be trans­ferred to other shel­ters with no such re­stric­tions.

T heA CLU said those youths are of­ten re­quired to move long dis­tances and have been harmed by de­lays in abor­tions and the loss of con­tact with fam­ily mem­bers, lawyers and so­cial work­ers. But Beeler said the ACLU had suf­fered no harm and lacked le­gal stand­ing to sue over the im­pact of the govern­ment’s poli­cies on oth­ers.

The mag­is­trate said she was ex­press­ing “no opin­ion about whether an un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nor, who may have suf­fered harm from be­ing trans­ferred or be­ing de­layed abor­tion ser­vices, might be able to bring a claim.” But she said the ACLU had failed to show that “any grant fund­ing was used for any re­li­gious pur­pose or that any un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nor or traf­fick­ing vic­tim who wanted an abor­tion or con­tra­cep­tion was un­able to ob­tain them.”

ACLU at­tor­ney Brigitte Amiri said Fri­day the or­ga­ni­za­tion had the op­tion of amend­ing its suit to add youths as plain­tiffs, or file a new suit on their be­half, as well as ap­peal­ing the rul­ing. Once Beeler granted the ACLU stand­ing to file the suit as a tax­payer, Amiri con­tended, she should have al­lowed a chal­lenge to all of the govern­ment’s al­leged con­sti­tu­tional vi­o­la­tions.

“The govern­ment is en­dors­ing the re­li­gious be­liefs of the re­li­gious shel­ters, to the detri­ment of the pop­u­la­tion they’re sup­posed to be serv­ing,” Amiri said.

The le­gal dis­pute also shed light on the abor­tion-re­lated views of Brett Ka­vanaugh, then a fed­eral ap­peals court judge and now a Trumpap­pointed jus­tice on the Supreme Court. When his ap­peals court, while con­sid­er­ing Trump’s ban on abor­tions for mi­nors in cus­tody, ruled that an un­doc­u­mented 17-yearold in a govern­ment­funded shel­ter could have an abor­tion with­out wait­ing to be re­leased to a pri­vate spon­sor, Ka­vanaugh dis­sented and said such youths have no right to an “im­me­di­ate abor­tion on de­mand.”

Bob Egelko is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: begelko@ sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @BobEgelko

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