Despite concerted efforts by the Trump administration to deny abortion access to an undocumented 17-year-old immigrant female in detention, a federal judge has ordered the government to allow the teen to get the abortion she requires. The teen identified publicly as only “Jane Doe” has been fighting for her right to abort her pregnancy while in custody at a shelter in Texas under the authority of Office of Refugee Resettlement of HHS. She is just 17 years old and in the United States without a parent or guardian. She is legally unable to leave the shelter unless she leaves the U.S. entirely.
Despite her precarious station in the United States, the undocumented teen had obtained permission from a judge to undergo her desired abortion, reports CNN. She had also obtained the financial means necessary to pay for the abortion she was seeking. Even so, the ACLU (which has taken up her case) claims that she was denied transport to an appropriate abortion clinic. Jane Doe was reportedly also forcibly subjected to the views of a “religious, anti-abortion” facility, and her mother was notified of her pregnancy and desire for an abortion over her vehement objections. It was after these alleged constitutional rights violations that DC District Judge Chutkan intervened.
According to the federal judge’s two-page decision, Jane Doe is to be transported “promptly and without delay” to a local Texas abortion provider in order to be subjected to the requisite state-mandated counseling, followed as soon as possible by the abortion she is seeking. Any officials at the Department of Health and Human Services deemed to be “interfering or obstructing” Jane Doe’s access to abortion or who are deemed to be attempting to influence her abortion decision or retaliating against her face potential contempt of court charges.
As the Chicago Tribune reports, the Trump administration led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions had previously argued that the detained undocumented minor who crossed the Mexico border last month lacked the constitutional right to an elective abortion while in federal custody. Federal Judge Chutkan, a holdover from the Obama administration, seemed appalled that the Trump administration seemingly desired to leave the undocumented teen with only two viable and equally unsuitable options: either return to the country she escaped to obtain an abortion or carry an unintended and unwanted pregnancy to term.
“I am astounded by that position.”
The ACLU, who represented the teen in court after filing a lawsuit on her behalf last week, argued that the Trump administration was out of “any sort of constitutional bounds” in denying Jane Doe a safe, legal abortion on demand, claiming that the right is preserved by the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Scott Stewart argued in federal court that undocumented minors “are not entitled to abortions,” adding that allowing for such an entitlement would “infringe on the government’s interests in preserving life and protecting national boundaries.” According to Stewart, the immigrant teen isn’t facing a “medical emergency,” somehow inferring that the reason behind an abortion should somehow lend credence to the validity of a female’s right to choose.
Judge Chutkan responded that a medical emergency isn’t required for a female to opt to abort a pregnancy; the federal judge further detailed the teen’s adherence to Texas state laws in her attempts to obtain the abortion she demands.
Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services have not confirmed whether or not they will appeal DC District Judge Chutkan’s decision, although they have vehemently argued against its merit and validity. According to a spokesperson from the Administration for Children and Families at HHS, the ruling is “troubling” and overrides the “policies and procedures of the Office of Refugee Resettlement designed to protect children and their babies who have illegally crossed the border.”
Any Department of Health and Human Services employee who attempts to violate the court order may find themselves facing contempt of court charges. Judge Chutkan’s order is also a time-sensitive one. Undocumented immigrant teen Jane Doe is reportedly at 15 weeks gestation — in Texas, the legal cutoff for an elective abortion is 20 weeks.
[Featured Image by Eric Gay/AP Images]