Federal judge orders Trump administration to allow undocumented teen to abort

Compares abortion to having tonsils removed

By Dave Andrusko

U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan (Flickr.com)

U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan (Flickr.com)

Editor’s note. Since this story was first posted this morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington has stayed Wednesday’s ruling in order to hold a hearing Friday on the merits of the case.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan an Obama nominee, ordered the government to allow a pregnant, undocumented teenager from Mexico to proceed in having an abortion.

Her two-page order said the 17-year-old, who is approximately 15 weeks pregnant, must be taken to “obtain the counseling required by state law on October 19, 2017, and to obtain the abortion procedure on October 20, 2017 and/or October 21, 2017, as dictated by the abortion providers’ availability and any medical requirement.”

“At last, our client will be able to get the care she needs without federal officials standing in the way,” Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement.

The teenager entered the United States unaccompanied last month.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services told the Los Angeles Times that lawyers were reviewing the ruling and considering how to respond.

The judge’s “troubling ruling” sets a “dangerous precedent” that could lead to the U.S. becoming an “open sanctuary for taxpayer-supported abortions by minors crossing the border illegally,” the department said in a statement.

Judge Chutkan’s decision followed a heated 40 minute exchange with Scott Stewart, a deputy assistant attorney general. According to the Washington Post’s Maria Sacchetti

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.”

Chutkan countered that the teenager does not need a medical emergency to exercise her right to an abortion. …

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.

Judge Chutkan said the girl’s legal status was “irrelevant” and that “despite the fact that she’s in this country illegally, she still has constitutional rights.”

In its lawsuit, the ACLU said “officials refused to transport her for the procedure or allow anyone else to do so,” the Texas Tribune reported [www.texastribune.org/2017/10/18/judge-abortion-access-pregnant-undocumented-teenager-texas/]. “The lawsuit also alleged the girl was forced to visit a “’religious, anti-abortion’ center and her mother was notified over her objections.”

The Administration for Children and Families at HHS defended its care of the teenager, known as “Jane Doe,” and its decision.

“There is no constitutional right for a pregnant minor to illegally cross the US border and get an elective abortion while in federal custody,” it said in a statement.

“Federal law is very clear on giving the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement the legal responsibility to care for the health and well-being of a minor in the unaccompanied alien children program and, in this case, her unborn baby,” the statement continued. “We cannot cede our responsibility to care for minors and their babies by releasing them to ideological advocacy groups.”

Last Friday, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit

seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow Doe to access her “judicially approved abortion” as well as a preliminary injunction to prevent the federal government from blocking abortion access for other unaccompanied immigrant minors. The ACLU filed the suit 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.

As NRL News Today reported last week, the Attorneys General of Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Carolina joined Texas in an amicus brief filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in response to the ACLU, defending “the federal government’s refusal to comply with an unlawfully-present minor alien’s request to have an abortion in Texas,” according to a news release sent out by Paxton’s office..

“An unlawfully-present alien with no substantial ties to this country has no constitutional right to abortion on demand,” Paxton said. “Texas has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life. Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions.”

Jane Doe is currently in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a federal office responsible for refugees and unaccompanied undocumented minors, in Brownsville, Texas. “Attorneys working on the case claim that both ORR and the shelter prevented her from attending pre-abortion medical appointments, instead forcing her to go to a crisis pregnancy center, where she received counseling against the procedure, and to undergo unnecessary sonograms against her will,” the Texas Tribune’s Giulia Afiune reported.