Undocumented immigrant teen obtains abortion after legal battle
The undocumented immigrant teenager who had been trying to terminate her pregnancy in Texas for the past several weeks had an abortion Wednesday, the ACLU said in a statement.
The 17-year-old, who came into the country without her parents, is in a federal shelter for minors. “Justice prevailed today for Jane Doe,” Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project said in a statement.
“But make no mistake about it, the Administration’s efforts to interfere in women’s decisions won’t stop with Jane.”
The Trump administration had tried to block the young woman from leaving the shelter to have an abortion with several court filings, but an appeals court ruled Tuesday night that she could have the procedure.
“With this case we have seen the astounding lengths this administration will go to block women from abortion care,” Amiri said. “We will not stop fighting until we have justice for every woman like Jane.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement, “Today’s loss of innocent human life is tragic.”
Paxton said the abortion “may have been avoidable,” citing what he called “long standing Supreme Court precedent on the rights of an unlawfully present person.”
“This ruling not only cost a life,” he said. “It could pave the way for anyone outside the United States to unlawfully enter and obtain an abortion. Life and the Constitution are sacred. We lost some of both today.”
Court reverses earlier decision
The 6-3 ruling Tuesday by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision by a three-judge panel on the same court that stalled the process by ordering the US Department of Health and Human Services to find a sponsor for the girl.
A district court judge then ordered HHS to allow the teen to be transported “promptly and without delay” to the abortion provider of her choosing.
“No one should be shamed for making the right decision for themselves,” the teen, identified as Jane Doe, said in a statement released by her lawyer.
“I would not tell any other girl in my situation what they should do. That decision is hers and hers alone.”
Jane Doe was almost 16 weeks pregnant. She came to the United States from an unspecified country and learned she was pregnant while she was in an HHS shelter, according to a lawsuit filed on her behalf by the ACLU.
“I knew immediately what was best for me then, as I do now — that I’m not ready to be a parent,” she said in the statement.
Case touches divisive issues
The case touched on two divisive social issues: abortion and immigration. Timing made the matter urgent because Texas law bans abortion after 20 weeks.
In the statement, the young woman said she came to the US in search of a better life. “My journey wasn’t easy, but I came here with hope in my heart to build a life I can be proud of,” she said.
“I dream about studying, becoming a nurse, and one day working with the elderly … This is my life, my decision. I want a better future. I want justice.”
The ACLU said the teen did not seek government assistance for the abortion. Her court-appointed representatives had said they would transport her to the health facility and private funds would pay for the procedure.
The teen’s fate has bounced around the court system for weeks.
Since arriving in the United States, she has been in a custody shelter for unaccompanied immigrant minors run by the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Because Texas law requires parental consent or a judicial waiver for a minor to obtain an abortion, she went to court with a guardian to seek judicial permission. A judge granted her the legal authority to consent to the procedure. However, the shelter refused to transport her, citing a policy policy of “refusing to facilitate” abortions.
The move prompted the ACLU to file a lawsuit on her behalf on October 13.
On October 18, a federal judge ordered HHS to allow her to be transported by a guardian or attorney to an abortion provider to obtain state-mandated counseling before the abortion. The next day, a three-judge panel from the appeals court issued an administrative stay of that ruling — with one judge dissenting — to “give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion” filed by the government.
After hearing oral arguments, the panel of judges ruled on October 20 that the teenager could have the abortion but delayed the process. The ruling set a deadline of October 31 for HHS to get a sponsor for the girl.