ACLU petitions full appeals court to hear its demand that undocumented 17-year-old be allowed to abort

By Dave Andrusko

There’s been flurry of action since last Friday when, as NRL News Today reported, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in the demand by the ACLU that an undocumented 17-year-old girl from Mexico should be immediately released from the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and allowed to abort.

On Friday, the panel, consisting of Judges Karen LeCraft Henderson, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Patricia A. Millett, decided against allowing the girl, reportedly 15 ½ weeks pregnant, to immediately secure an abortion. Instead they gave the Department of Health and Human Services 11 days to find a sponsor to take custody of the girl, known as “Jane Doe.”

Last night the ACLU “asked the full federal appeals court of 10 judges in Washington to immediately consider allowing her to get an abortion,” the Washington Post reported. “The court gave the government until 11 a.m. Monday to file a response to the petition.”

The Post’s Samantha Schmidt wrote that the “full court does not often review the actions of a panel on emergency order.” Should that be the case, Schmidt said the ACLU “will likely go the Supreme Court.”

The ACLU said finding a sponsor is time consuming and that Texas’s abortion law bans most abortions after 20 weeks. In addition, the ACLU lawyers filed a declaration from Robert Carey, former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the Obama administration, “saying that the appeals court decision Friday was unrealistic in its premise that officials could find and approve a sponsor for the 17-year-old girl by Oct. 31,” according to POLITICO.

In response, a statement released Friday by HHS’s Administration for Children and Families said, “For however much time we are given, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and HHS will protect the well being of this minor and all children and their babies in our facilities, and we will defend human dignity for all in our care.”


Last Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, an Obama nominee, ordered the government to allow Jane Doe to proceed to have an abortion. Judge Chutkan concluded that her legal status was “irrelevant” and that “despite the fact that she’s in this country illegally, she still has constitutional rights.” The government appealed and last Thursday the DC Court of Appeals stayed the ruling in order to hear oral arguments on the merits of the case which it did on Friday.

In addition to the life of this one unborn child, it is critically important to realize, as the ACLU told the Los Angeles Times, “there are hundreds of pregnant unaccompanied minors in federal custody, all potential Jane Does.” Many-to-most of those girls are likely in Texas. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was not exaggerating when he wrote, “Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions.”

A week ago Friday, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the heads of two divisions within the department: the Administration for Children and Families and the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The ACLU is trying to piggyback the case to a current lawsuit it has against the federal government “for allegedly allowing some religiously affiliated shelters to impose their religion on minors by prohibiting their access to abortion,” the Texas Tribune reported.

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