DC Circuit Grapples With Immigrant Minor's Abortion Access


WASHINGTON ― The Trump administration argued before a federal appeals court on Friday that blocking an abortion for a pregnant teenager held in immigrant detention doesn't violate her rights because she has the option of leaving the US and returning to her home country, where abortion is outlawed.

The case of Jane Doe, as she is known to protect the 17-year-old's identity, was appealed by the D.C. circuit court a day earlier in yet another escalation of the case, which began when Doe obtained permission from a state judge, in lieu of parental consent, and raised private money to pay for the procedure.

Doe has been detained in a refugee shelter in Brownsville, Texas, since September 11, when she was apprehended at the U.S. -Mexico border.

A three-judge panel that includes two Republican appointees gave the Trump administration until October 31 to find a sponsor for the girl, who crossed from Mexico to Texas last month and is 15 weeks pregnant.

Undocumented immigrant minors are overseen by the Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Refugee Resettlement.

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"Justice is delayed yet again for this courageous and persistent young woman", said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

But she also acknowledged publicly for the first time that abortion is illegal in the teenager's homeland.

"[Texas] officials have been cracking down on abortion however they can, whether it's shutting down clinics or making the procedure prohibitively expensive", Weiss said. (Although ACLU attorneys seemed to suggest her undisclosed home country does not offer abortion care.) They also argued that the government is not required to facilitate abortion care, but rather are more interested in promoting childbirth.

Gov't: If undocumented teen wants an abortion, she can agree to go back to her home country.

The 17-year-old, referred to in the case as Jane Doe, came to the US without documentation early last month.

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The appeals court's decision required the officials to still allow the counseling, but it lifted the requirement that officials had to allow the abortion. "ORR's lawless actions have already forced her into the second trimester; had ORR followed its own policies she could have had a simple ten-minute aspiration abortion or even a medication abortion". Once out of the facility, she could presumably seek an abortion without further interference. They seek to safeguard the health of a foreign, pregnant girl in their care - as well as the health of her child.

Amiri quoted Supreme Court precedent in response, saying alternative mechanisms for minors to act on their choice to have an abortion must be quick. Lloyd reportedly said after taking over that he would release undocumented minors from shelters only for "pregnancy services and life-affirming options counseling".

The government lawyer admits the reason Jane Doe can't have an abortion is that she is in HHS custody. "I want to be clear: all women, including unaccompanied minors, have constitutionally-guaranteed reproductive rights, and I will use the full force of my office to ensure they're protected in NY".

The three-judge panel was comprised of two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee, Patricia Millett, who was the sole dissenter.

After Doe won a temporary restraining order from Judge Chutkan on Wednesday, a representative for the Administration for Children and Families said the agency was troubled that the court would set "a risky precedent by opening our borders to any illegal children seeking taxpayer-supported, elective abortions". "We will consider our next steps to ensure our country does not become an open sanctuary for taxpayer-supported abortions by minors crossing the border illegally". Texas law bans abortion after 20 weeks, and requires patients seeking abortions to undergo counseling by a doctor at least 24 hours before the procedure. For conservatives and Republicans, the classic example was the Terri Schiavo saga of 2005, in which a Republican president and Congress intervened in a state family-law case at the behest of right-to-life activists trying to keep a woman in a persistent vegetative state alive against the wishes of her husband.

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"I think it's ludicrous", Amiri told reporters of the government's unwillingness to weigh in on the issue.