The United States federal judge on Wednesday ordered the U.S., the Trump administration to allow a pregnant, undocumented teenager to obtain an abortion.”promptly and without delay.”
judge wrote, must “promptly and without delay” allow the 17-year-old to be transported to an abortion provider closest to the shelter where she is being held. The judge wrote that federal officials are “restrained from interfering with or obstructing [the teen’s] access to abortion counseling or an abortion.”
Chutkan, an Obama administration nominee, said the government appeared to be presenting the teenager identified in court papers as “Jane Doe” with two options: Voluntarily return to a nation she fled to procure an abortion, or carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
“I am astounded by that position,” Chutkan said in a 40-minute hearing that was mostly consumed by a back-and-forth between the judge and Scott Stewart, a deputy assistant attorney general.
The pregnant teenager, who is being held in a federally funded shelter in South Texas, has been fighting to obtain an abortion since she was apprehended at the US–Mexico border on Sept. 11. Trump administration officials had blocked the shelter from permitting her to travel to a provider, according to court filings.
At arguments earlier on Wednesday, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan appeared likely to order that the government must allow the young woman, referred to in court papers as “Jane Doe,” to get an abortion. The judge was incredulous as she questioned the lawyer for the government, at one point saying she was “astounded” at the government’s apparent position that the teen’s only options were to either carry the pregnancy to term or go back to her home country.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the pregnant teen, cheered the judge’s ruling as a major victory for abortion and immigrant rights.
“We never should have had to fight this in the first place,” said Brigitte Amiri, a senior ACLU staff attorney who argued the case on Wednesday. “It should never have been something that we needed to go to court over.”
Late Wednesday, however, the Justice Department appealed the case, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to stay District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s ruling.
The government asked the appeals court to rule by 9 p.m. on Thursday, to prevent the 17-year-old, identified in court papers as Jane Doe, from having an “irreversible elective abortion” while the appeal is pending. The government said the teenager, who is in her 15th week of pregnancy, “still has a number of weeks in which she could legally and safely obtain an abortion.”
ACLU lawyer Brigitte Amiri argued that it was “out of any sort of constitutional bounds” for the U.S. government to block the teenager’s legal right to an abortion, which is preserved in the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling. A federal magistrate judge in California agreed with the ACLU earlier this month but said she could not rule in the case because the girl is detained in South Texas.
But Stewart told the judge that pregnant undocumented minors from other countries are not entitled to abortions, and said in court records that opening the door to that right “would significantly infringe on the government’s interests in preserving life and protecting national boundaries.”
“I respectfully disagree that she’s entitled to an abortion” facilitated by the government, he said, noting that the girl’s case was not a medical emergency. In court filings, the government said it has “strong and constitutionally legitimate interests in promoting childbirth, in refusing to facilitate abortion, and in not providing incentives for pregnant minors to illegally cross the border to obtain elective abortions while in federal custody.”chicago tribune report”.
A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment. The government is appealing the decision, and late Wednesday Justice Department lawyers filed an emergency motion asking the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to delay Chutkan’s order from taking effect.
Chutkan countered that the teenager does not need a medical emergency to exercise her right to an abortion. She said the girl had followed state and federal rules: She obtained permission from a state judge in Texas to have an abortion and would cover the expenses herself or with help through her court-appointed guardian.
All the government had to do, the judge said, is process the paperwork to let the girl visit the clinic, just as they would if she needed to have her tonsils removed.
Stewart said the girl could also voluntarily leave the United States and find another way to have an abortion, and said the girl had chosen to remain in federal custody instead of returning home.
That claim appeared to irk the judge, who pointed out that the federal workers took the girl, against her wishes, to a Christian pregnancy facility for counseling and also informed her mother about the abortion. Both steps potentially violated the girl’s constitutional right to privacy and other protections, Chutkan said.
“The government certainly had no problem taking her against her will to receive pregnancy counseling, which was designed to change her mind,” Chutkan said. “The government didn’t seem to have any problem facilitating that.”
The judge and Stewart also sparred over whether some aspects of the law remain undisputed.
Chutkan asked Stewart if he thought illegal immigrants had constitutional rights and if he believed that Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion, is still the “law of the land.”
Stewart acknowledged the Supreme Court’s ruling but said the government views this case differently because the teenager is an undocumented immigrant in federal custody.
He also said undocumented immigrants have “minimal” protections in this country.
“I’m not going to give you a concession on that your honor,” he said.
The judge laughed. “This is remarkable,” she said.
Brigitte Amiri, a senior ACLU staff attorney who argued the case on Wednesday said:
“We never should have had to fight this in the first place,” said . “It should never have been something that we needed to go to court over.”