Trump Administration Claims It's Not Blocking Abortion For Detained Immigrant Teen

Henrietta Brewer
October 21, 2017

The federal appeals court in Washington held a hearing on the case on Friday, after it temporarily stayed a judge's ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday to allow Doe to receive an abortion.

If a sponsor can not be found in the next 11 days, the court said, the matter would return to a district court judge who had ordered the government to allow the abortion.

Federal judges weighing the case of a Central American teenager seeking to end her pregnancy seemed inclined on Friday to resolve the issue without wading into the explosive mix of immigration and abortion law - but at the same time acknowledged that such action may be impossible.

Doe has been detained in a refugee shelter in Brownsville, Texas, since September 11, when she was apprehended at the U.S. -Mexico border. Doe is believed to be around 15 weeks pregnant and in Texas, abortions are illegal after 20 weeks. But her request for an abortion has been delayed ever since by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the US Department of Health and Human Services, as part of what appears to be a new Trump-era ORR policy to drastically restrict abortion access for unaccompanied minors in US custody.

Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case on Jane Doe's behalf, pushed the court to act quickly.

But Dorsey argued that Doe had not only the option of finding a sponsor, but also the ability to willingly return to her home country and seek an abortion there. "The government has not put any obstacle in her path", attorney Catherine Dorsey said. Dorsey evaded the question, acknowledging that the government was facilitating abortion in those cases, but noted that this facilitation is not constitutionally required.

Justice Department lawyers, who had appealed the lower court's ruling, cited that the government's interest in "fetal life and childbirth" as grounds for blocking the order in a motion filed Wednesday night.

Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan set the stage for appellate oral arguments Friday with an order for HHS not to prevent Doe from getting an abortion. It's unlikely the same majority that upheld the "undue burden" standard for state abortion restrictions in the Whole Women's Health case past year - another Texas case - will decide it's okay for the federal government to literally hold a woman in custody until it's too late for her to secure an abortion.

HHS argued to the appeals court that the department had a policy of "refusing to facilitate abortions" except in "very limited circumstances". Instead they took her to a counseling session at a religiously-affiliated, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center where she had a medically unnecessary sonogram.

The ACLU is hopeful the judge's ruling will address not just Doe's situation but the right of all undocumented minors to obtain an abortion under the constitution. "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".

"I can't understand why people of faith aren't outraged as federal funds are used to persecute and deny services to the most vulnerable in their hour of need", Kanter said.

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

"She's already got the adult, so now we're talking about guardianship squared", Millet said. Additionally, fewer doctors perform abortions in the later weeks of the legal time frame. "The further that we get, the further the risks that are apparent for her, and also if we get so far, she'll be forced to carry this pregnancy to term against her will".

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 unsafe precedent by opening our borders to any illegal children seeking taxpayer-supported, elective abortions". "Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions".

After the hearing, Amiri told NBC's Charlie Gile: "It's blatantly unconstitutional what the government is doing to Jane Doe".

Other reports by iNewsToday