AUSTIN, Texas — A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked a ruling by a lower court that ordered the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to allow an illegal immigrant teenager to obtain an abortion “promptly and without delay.”
U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia issued the per curiam order on Thursday and will hear oral argument regarding the matter on Friday before making a decision on whether or not to grant the government’s emergency motion for a stay.
“The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion,” the three-judge panel wrote.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, appointed to the bench by then-President Barack Obama, had ruled on Wednesday that the 17-year-old girl is “legally entitled” to an abortion, and that if the teen is not permitted to obtain the abortion she might suffer “irreparable injury” because she will have to give birth. She ordered that the girl be allowed to obtain an abortion either on Friday or Saturday.
According to reports, the teenager is from Central America and may be up to 15 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.
“Failure to comply with the terms of this order may result in a finding of contempt,” Chutkan warned.
The Trump administration promptly appealed the ruling, and the D.C. Court of Appeals allowed the order to be paused while it considers the matter.
It is challenging the HHS and ORR over policies that the organization says keep undocumented youth from obtaining abortions.
“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 read.
“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 continued. “Defendants also made clear that Ms. Doe would be prohibited from obtaining the abortion itself.”
The ACLU also contended that the federal government was wrong to notify the teen’s mother that she was pregnant and seeking an abortion, when she wanted to keep the information hidden from her family.
“Defendants told my mother about my pregnancy and are trying to force me to tell her as well,” an affidavit filed with the lawsuit stated. “I do not want my family to know that I am seeking an abortion.”
In addition to ordering the government on Wednesday to allow the girl to have an abortion “promptly and without delay,” Chutkan blocked the Trump administration from “forcing [Doe] to reveal her abortion decision to anyone.”
“If transportation to the nearest abortion provider requires [Doe] to travel past a border control checkpoint, Defendants are restrained from interfering with her ability to do so and are ordered to provide any documentation necessary for her to do so,” she also wrote.
The HHS’ Administration for Children and Families said in a statement following Wednesday’s ruling that it would fight the decision to “ensure our country does not become an open sanctuary for taxpayer-supported abortions by minors crossing the border illegally.”