A 15-weeks pregnant undocumented teenager apprehended last month on the US-Mexico border must be allowed to obtain an abortion “promptly and without delay,” a federal judge has told the Trump administration.
“Jane Doe,” as the 17-year-old illegal immigrant is known in court documents, has a constitutional right to an elective abortion, US District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, for the District of Columbia, ruled on Wednesday.
Scott Stewart, a US deputy assistant attorney general, failed to convince the Obama-nominated judge that the teenager, who remains in government custody in Brownsville, Texas, should return to her home country if she doesn’t want to carry the pregnancy to term, or otherwise find a US sponsor.
“I am astounded by that position,” Chutkan said, according to the Washington Post.
“I respectfully disagree that she’s entitled to an abortion” expedited by the government, Stewart said, clarifying that Jane Doe’s situation was not a medical emergency, the Post reported.
Chutkan ordered the government to transport Doe, or allow her guardian or lawyer to transport her, “promptly and without delay to the abortion provider closest” to the Brownsville shelter.
Under Texas law, in order to have an abortion, the woman must make two trips to the provider, adhere to a waiting period between those visits, and receive an ultrasound. Due to these restraints, as well as Texas prohibiting most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the judge ordered the US government facilitate the girl’s access to an abortion provider by Thursday, and for the operation to occur by October 21, depending on the availability and medical requirements of the provider.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which brought the case, had also asked for a preliminary injunction to cover all similar cases of undocumented immigrants in US custody seeking abortions. However, the judge ruled only on this specific case.
Doe’s lawyers argued that she had abided by state and federal rules, with a Texas judge granting permission for the abortion. The ACLU did not request, nor did the judge’s ruling require, that any government agency pay for the abortion or provide transportation. The US government simply needs to process paperwork for the visit to the clinic, Chutkan ruled.
That wasn’t too much to ask, Chutkan found, since federal agents had already taken Doe “against her will” to a Christian pregnancy facility for counseling and also informed Doe’s mother, the Post reported. Chutkan added that these moves may have violated her rights to privacy and other constitutional protections.
It remains unclear if the Department of Justice will appeal the ruling.
The Trump administration 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,” the government’s court filings read, according to the Post.
Although the girl was apprehended for illegally crossing the Mexican border into the US last month, her country of origin is unknown, and so is that country’s abortion law.