As an example, USCIS has dozens of offices around the US, including many states where abortion is expected to be banned soon. Could the US Federal Government dedicate a part of every USCIS building to an abortion clinic, thus denying the states the opportunity to ban abortion? Or would they still have to comply with state law?

I'm asking about the extent to which the Federal government could change things without amending the Constitution or packing the courts to get a favorable re-assessment of prior case law.

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    – Dale M
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 11:02
  • Or post offices Commented Feb 16 at 23:46

2 Answers 2


The Hyde Ammendment prevents any federal funds from being used to pay for abortions. You can be certain that providing clinic space to provide abortions would be quickly challenged in court as a violation of the Hyde Ammendment.

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    Looks like such a clinic won't be challengeable if it only conducted abortions "to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape".
    – Greendrake
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 5:20
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    What if the government rented the space to the abortion clinic? The government wouldn't be spending funds, it would be coming from the tenant. Isn't this the idea behind Warren's recommendation to use national parks?
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 15:07
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    @Barmar: I don't think that would work because the tenant couldn't lawfully exist at all.
    – Joshua
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 22:22
  • @Greendrake Don't all states have an exception for saving the life of the mother? Some states have an explicit exception for the result of rape or incest too. Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 11:24
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    Any law enacting such a provision would override the Hyde Amendment expressly as to that expenditure.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 18:06

A substantial impediment to this plan is that the Hyde Amendment forbids using federal funds to pay for an abortion. Let us set aside the funding question in favor of the jurisdiction question.

There is such a thing as the "special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the US, where the federal government claims jurisdiction which therefore supersedes state jurisdiction, but this refers to the high seas, vessels, rocks with guano... It does also include

(3) Any lands reserved or acquired for the use of the United States, and under the exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction thereof, or any place purchased or otherwise acquired by the United States by consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of a fort, magazine, arsenal, dockyard, or other needful building

USCIS buildings are unlikely to qualify, but there could be some such locations – it would have to be exclusive federal jurisdiction, to preclude application of state law (also known as a federal enclave). A military fort is a likely candidate location.

But 18 USC 13 says that an act that is not a federal crime but which

would be punishable if committed or omitted within the jurisdiction of the State, Territory, Possession, or District in which such place is situated, by the laws thereof in force at the time of such act or omission, shall be guilty of a like offense and subject to a like punishment.

But this cannot be used to override valid administrative orders, or when there is a relevant federal law.

  • 1
    Do federal office buildings not fall under "other needful building"? The USCIS offices I know about are in federal office buildings.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 13:17
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    Elizabeth Warren has suggested national parks.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 15:08
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    That does seem most robust, because that is land actually owned by the federal government, ceded to or kept by the states, and is not leased.
    – user6726
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 15:14

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