Top immigration officials plan to instruct detention centers nationwide that women in custody are entitled to abortions and should be transferred to receive one if they are being detained in a state where abortion is now illegal. The directive is in an undated memorandum that cites the Supreme Court decision that ended the federal right to abortions, the Wall Street Journal reports. The memo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Tae Johnson is addressed to Corey Price, head of the agency’s enforcement division. “This memorandum serves as a reminder of existing ICE policies and standards requiring that pregnant individuals detained in ICE immigration custody have access to full reproductive health care,” the memo states.
An official said the memo likely would be sent this week, and would represent the first law enforcement agency to reinforce reproductive rights in federal custody. ICE detains immigrants in the U.S. unlawfully on civil immigration violations, many of them making asylum applications. The memo is designed in part to pre-empt potential conflicts with Republican-led states where ICE runs many of its jail facilities and where abortion bans have started to take effect. It isn’t clear how many detained immigrants the new policy would affect. Under President Biden, ICE issued a policy last summer that instructs officers to avoid arresting or detaining pregnant women. It adds to the suite of policies the Biden administration is rolling out to demonstrate its support for abortion rights. On Monday, for example, the Department of Health and Human Services told hospitals that they are required to perform abortions and provide related services in emergency situations.