ACLU: Teen at Center of Abortion Suit Has Had Procedure
WASHINGTON—An immigrant teen in federal custody who was seeking an abortion over the Trump administration’s objections had the procedure Wednesday after a U.S. appeals court ruled in her favor, her lawyers said.
The 17-year-old had fought for a month to have an abortion, eventually leading to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency oversees facilities for unaccompanied minors who enter the United States illegally and had refused her requests for an abortion.
The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday restored a lower court’s ruling against HHS. The new ruling ordered HHS to step aside and allow the teen to go forward with an abortion. The Trump administration chose not to appeal to the Supreme Court.
“Justice prevailed today for Jane Doe,” said Brigitte Amiri, an ACLU lawyer who argued for the teen in court.
The teen illegally entered the U.S. in September and learned she was pregnant while in federal custody in Texas. She obtained a state court order on Sept. 25 permitting an abortion. But federal officials refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others could take her for the procedure.
HHS argued it had established a policy of “refusing to facilitate” abortions for people in its care. Government lawyers said the teen could ask to be returned to her country of origin instead of seeking an abortion while in HHS’ custody.
Lawyers for the teen said government officials were illegally denying medical care to which the teen was entitled, and that the shelter had instead taken her to a crisis pregnancy center. Such centers try to discourage pregnant women from having abortions.
Jane’s Due Process, a Texas group that works with minors seeking abortions, said it and other groups had raised private money to pay for the teen’s abortion. It said lawyers appointed to represent the teen’s interests would take her from the South Texas facility where she was being held to and from an abortion clinic.
Lawyers for the teen have not identified her name or country of origin, citing privacy reasons, but have said she was from Central America. But they said the teen feared having her parents find out that she wanted an abortion because she had seen them abuse a sister who was pregnant.
The teen was about 15 weeks pregnant, and Texas law bans most abortions after 20 weeks.
“It shouldn’t take dozens of lawyers for anyone to get an abortion, and that’s what it took in this case,” said Susan Hays, legal director for Jane’s Due Process.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who argued in court filings that the teen did not have a constitutional right to an abortion, called the case “tragic” and argued it could “pave the way for anyone outside the United States to unlawfully enter and obtain an abortion.” Paxton noted in his statement that the U.S. Department of Justice did not appeal the circuit court’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
HHS and the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Merchant reported from Houston. Associated Press reporter Sadie Gurman in Washington contributed to this report.WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface. We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.
Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.