Published: Thu, October 19, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

DC Court Grants Undocumented Minor Access to Legal Abortion

DC Court Grants Undocumented Minor Access to Legal Abortion

The young woman has been in the shelter around six weeks, longer than normal, and advocates fear ORR is purposefully holding her until she surpasses the 20-week mark in her pregnancy, leaving her unable to access an abortion at all.

The girl, referred to as "Jane Doe" due to privacy concerns, was able to get a judicial waiver through her lawyer, but officials at the detention facility refused to transport her to an abortion clinic.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Trump administration was forcing Doe to continue carrying her pregnancy against her will.

It is illegal to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

But the government has not allowed her to leave custody to obtain an abortion, and officials argued they were under no legal obligation to do so. The ACLU argues that the Constitution confers on unlawfully-present aliens the right to an abortion on demand even when they have no ties to the USA other than the fact of their arrest while present unlawfully. The Office of Refugee Resettlement announced that federally funded shelters (like the one "Jane Doe" is staying in) are barred from taking "any action that facilitates" abortion for unaccompanied minors without "direction and approval" from ORR Director Scott Lloyd.

Jane Doe's lawyer, Brigitte Amiri, who is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, told Politico, "There is a pattern of unconstitutional overreach of power in a minor's abortion decision". Under the current policy, it is unclear whether ORR is allowing any minors, including rape victims, to obtain abortions.

The fear is that she will be made to carry to term against her will.

The ACLU challenged the obstruction earlier this week by adding her to an existing lawsuit it had against ORR in California, but a judge ruled that although the government had no justification for blocking the abortion, Doe's case needed to be filed in a separate suit in a different court.

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The attorneys general of Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and SC joined Paxton in filing an amicus brief supporting the federal government's position. Lloyd reportedly has said he would allow pregnant minors to be released only for "pregnancy services and life-affirming options counseling".

The pregnant teen, who immigrated to the United States illegally, has exhausted to get an abortion for a while. Federal law is very clear on giving the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement the legal responsibility to decide what is in the best interests of a minor in the unaccompanied alien children program and, in this case, her unborn baby.

"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.

"Doe" first filed a lawsuit in Texas state court, asking for an order compelling HHS to take her to get an abortion. They said she even got a state judge's permission to have the abortion, in lieu of parental consent under Texas law.

Paxton also filed an amicus brief with a U.S. District Court in San Francisco last week.

Texas is home to 45 shelters operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement for unaccompanied immigrant minors, almost half of the 100 facilities the office maintains nationwide. "She is being abused both physically, by denying her access to medical care, and emotionally, by the way they are haranguing her and trying to break her down psychologically because she wants an abortion", said Hays, adding that she was also forced to talk to her mother and to go to a crisis pregnancy center against her will.

The new order maintains that officials must ensure Jane Doe obtains the abortion no later than October 21.

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