Lawsuit Challenges Religiously Based Restrictions on Unaccompanied Children’s Access to Healthcare

  Image by Getty Images

Image by Getty Images

A lawsuit filed last week challenges the U.S. government’s decision to sanction religiously based restrictions on vital healthcare provided to unaccompanied immigrant children and teens.

Unaccompanied children are especially vulnerable; many have been sexually abused or assaulted in the countries they’ve fled or during their journey to the U.S. and are especially vulnerable. The federal government is legally obligated to provide them with food, housing, and emergency and routine medical care (including, critically, reproductive healthcare) and partners with nonprofit service providers to get the children these basic necessities. Some religiously affiliated organizations, however, impose restrictions on unaccompanied children’s access to reproductive healthcare with the government’s permission.

When religion is used as a justification to deny access to healthcare, it puts these girls’ health and well-being in jeopardy. The ACLU’s lawsuit shares the stories of young girls, some of whom were raped, who were expelled from faith-based providers for requesting an abortion. In many cases, these girls end up isolated from extended family and support networks.

Not only is this denial of access to reproductive healthcare incredibly harmful to the health and safety of teenage girls, but it also violates several laws and a legal settlement requiring that they receive this vital care. (In fact, just last year, the same government agency being sued issued regulations on one set of these legal requirements and Americans United commented on them.)