The following comes from an April 7 story on the website Vox.com.
It sounds, in a way, like a conservative fever dream: the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the federal government to find out if Catholic Charities is providing abortions to immigrant teenagers — many of whom don’t have legal status in the United States.
But that’s essentially what is happening as of Monday, when the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to find out whether teenagers who are being housed in Catholic Charities–operated facilities (after being apprehended as unaccompanied migrants) have access to contraception and abortion.
The lawsuit illustrates the difficult position Catholic Charities (and its parent organization, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops) is in with the federal government right now.
It’s working as a federal contractor to house unaccompanied minors. Its work here aligns with liberals: providing humane care to children and teenagers who came to the US alone, many of whom were the victims of sexual assault in their home countries or during the journey to America. But this also puts the group on the hook for following federal regulations regarding health-care access, which opens up another front in the ongoing culture war over whether and when institutional freedom of conscience for religious organizations can supersede individual rights to reproductive choice.
….Catholic Charities has a contract with the federal government to help house unauthorized immigrants in the United States who are awaiting court decisions on whether they can remain in the country.
The influx of unauthorized children and families into the United States slowed dramatically in the fall of 2014, but some are continuing to arrive. While they don’t have legal immigration status when they arrive in the US, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically unauthorized immigrants.
….The lawsuit is probably getting more attention (especially from conservative media) because of the combination of two hot-button issues: abortion and immigration.
But immigration is something of a red herring here. Even if all migrants to the US were being kept in detention facilities and deported quickly, there would still be federal regulations regarding what happened if they got raped. And the fact that these facilities are being operated by Catholic Charities instead of a private prison company is an indication that Catholic Charities is aligned with the federal government in wanting to provide humane care to children and teenagers who’ve arrived unaccompanied.
The real issue here is whether a religious organization taking federal money needs to abide by the laws of the government or of its faith. From the ACLU’s perspective, Catholic Charities is taking millions of dollars in federal contracts to care for migrant children and teenagers, and it’s the nonprofit’s job to carry out what the government wants — including abortion access. From the Catholic perspective, the government is yet again putting new requirements on existing contracts, and following those requirements would facilitate women getting abortions, in contravention of their faith and their organizational policy.