Undocumented Teen in Custody After Crossing Border Takes Feds to Court in Effort to Obtain Abortion

Photo Credit: Jess Lis

AUSTIN, Texas — An undocumented teenage girl who is in the United States unaccompanied by her parents is asking a court to grant her permission to obtain an abortion as officials at the immigration facility where she is being held have allegedly denied her request.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the 17-year-old, who is only being referred to as “Jane Doe” in legal documents.

It is challenging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) over policies that the organization says keep illegal immigrant youth from obtaining abortions.

According to the Associated Press, the teenager is from Central America and may be up to 14 weeks pregnant. She says she wants to abort her child, in part, because her parents had allegedly mistreated one of her siblings for becoming pregnant. She is currently in federal custody at an immigrant shelter in Texas.

“Instead of arranging for Ms. Doe’s requested medical care, Defendants forced Ms. Doe to visit an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center where she was forced to undergo an ultrasound for no medical purpose, made to reveal intimate details about herself, and was subjected to the center’s attempts to dissuade her from having an abortion,” the lawsuit reads.

“With the assistance of court-appointed guardian and attorney ad litems, Ms. Doe sought to obtain a judicial bypass of the state’s parental consent requirement. Ms. Doe had an appointment scheduled with a health center for counseling, but ORR refused to transport, or allow Ms. Doe to be transported by anyone, to the health center,” the complaint continues. “Defendants also made clear that Ms. Doe would be prohibited from obtaining the abortion itself.”

The ACLU contends that the federal government was additionally wrong to notify the teen’s mother that she was pregnant when she didn’t want her family to know, nor that she was seeking to obtain an abortion.

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“As a matter of practice, ORR is also unconstitutionally forcing unaccompanied immigrant minors to tell parents and/or immigration sponsors of their abortion decision, or ORR is telling minors’ parents and/or sponsors about the minors’ abortion decision, against the express wishes of the minor,” it argues in the suit. “Ms. Doe is concerned about her privacy, and does not want any other family members to know of her abortion decision.”

A hearing is scheduled regarding the matter on Wednesday. The ACLU not only desires for the teen to be granted the abortion, but it also wants the courts to stop the Trump administration from blocking any illegal immigrant youth who enter the U.S. without their parents from obtaining abortions.

“The Trump administration’s action is shocking—a young woman is essentially being held hostage and forced by federal officials to continue a pregnancy against her will,” Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “And this case isn’t the only one—nationally, the federal government is obstructing young immigrant women’s access to abortion.”

However, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed an amicus brief in the case, urging the court not to grant the organization’s requested injunction.

“If ‘Doe’ prevails in this case, the ruling will create a right to abortion for anyone on earth who enters the U.S. illegally. And with that right, countless others undoubtedly would follow,” he said in a press release. “Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions.”

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