Appeals court paves way for undocumented teen to have abortion

Marie Harrington
October 25, 2017

The administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said they found the decision to be a "troubling ruling that exceeds the U.S. Constitution and sets a risky precedent by opening our borders to any illegal children seeking taxpayer-supported, elective abortions". "We are asking the court to put a stop to this now", Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project who is representing the teen, said earlier this week.

"The ACLU is pushing its larger agenda of making the United States a sanctuary nation for abortion", she said.

On Oct. 20, a three-judge appellate panel ruled that Doe would not be allowed immediately to obtain the abortion.

The appeals court made a decision to reinstate an October 18ruling by Judge Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee, who ruled last week that the girl must be transported to an abortion clinic "promptly and without delay".

The case revolves around the question of whether the federal government will facilitate an abortion for a 17-year-old from Central America, known only as "Jane Doe". "The panel majority's decision allowing the federal government to continue to block J.D. from accessing abortion violates decades of well-settled Supreme Court precedent that holds that the government may not impose an undue burden on - or, as in this extraordinary case, completely block - a woman's ability to obtain an abortion", the attorneys wrote in the petition. As Slate concludes in its analysis of the DOJ's position, "This argument is merely another way of stating that women like Doe have no right to an abortion in the United States".

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In a dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a George W. Bush appointee who was on Trump's shortlist for the Supreme Court, said the majority ruling amounted to allowing "unlawful immigrant minors to have an immediate abortion on demand". Two of the minors whose cases are summarized in the memo, which was shared with HuffPost, said they had been raped, but in both instances the officials casted doubt on their stories, writing that the 17-year-olds had initially said their pregnancy resulted from consensual sex.

In appealing Judge Chutkan's initial decision, the Department of Justice appealed the decision saying it "sets a unsafe precedent by opening our borders to any illegal children seeking taxpayer-supported, elective abortions". Just as the government doesn't want to endorse illegals coming to the USA for free health care and education, they also don't want to endorse allowing abortions for illegals.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Patricia Millett wrote that the decision "rights a grave constitutional wrong by the government". If J.D. wants an abortion, they say, she is free to leave to return to her home country.

The American Civil Liberties Union had filed a lawsuit on behalf 17-year-old Jane Doe, who is nearly 16 weeks pregnant and wants an abortion. The Office of Refugee Resettlement - a sub-division of HHS that oversees the shelter - has also refused to transport the minor. Except a sponsor has not been found, and the process of finding someone suitable could take weeks or months, by which point J.D.'s effort to secure an abortion would be moot. There's no guarantee that ORR will be able to find an appropriate sponsor for her before the end of the month, which means that the case could drag on even longer. Since at least March, the office has disallowed shelters from taking minors to terminate their pregnancies without the approval of its anti-abortion director, E. Scott Lloyd. Other minors have received direct pressure from ORR officials ― including Lloyd himself ― not to get abortions.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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