WASHINGTON — A teenager who is in the country illegally has obtained an abortion after the full, or en banc, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled on Tuesday that the Trump administration must allow the girl to go through with the procedure, reviving a lower court order that the girl have the abortion “promptly and without delay.”
“More than a month after she made her decision, Jane Doe was able to obtain an abortion this morning,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote on Wednesday.
She was nearly 16 weeks (four months) pregnant.
The 17-year-old girl herself released a statement, remarking that she was thankful to obtain the abortion without her parents’ permission.
“When I was detained, I was placed in a shelter for children. It was there that I was told I was pregnant,” she explained. “I knew immediately what was best for me then, as I do now—that I’m not ready to be a parent. Thanks to my lawyers, Rochelle Garza and Christine Cortez, and with the help of Jane’s Due Process, I went before a judge and was given permission to end my pregnancy without my parents’ consent.”
“While the government provides for most of my needs at the shelter, they have not allowed me to leave to get an abortion,” the teen continued. “Instead, they made me see a doctor that tried to convince me not to abort and to look at sonograms. People I don’t even know are trying to make me change my mind. I made my decision and that is between me and God. Through all of this, I have never changed my mind.”
As previously reported, the ACLU filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) on behalf of the girl, who has only been referred to as “Jane Doe” in legal documents.
She was taken into custody shortly after crossing the border and has been held 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 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.”
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, appointed to the bench by then-President Barack Obama, had ruled last week that the 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 teen be allowed to obtain an abortion either on Friday or Saturday, and she also blocked the Trump administration from “forcing [Doe] to reveal her abortion decision to anyone.”
However, HHS immediately appealed and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, requesting that it be allowed to find a non-government “sponsor” for the girl, so that she would no longer be in federal custody.
The court agreed 2-1, opining that if the teen was no longer in government custody, it would not have to rule on whether or not illegal immigrants have a right to an abortion when in federal detention—and the government would feel as if it washed its hands of the matter.
The ACLU then appealed to the full D.C. Court of Appeals, which overturned the ruling on Tuesday and sent the matter back to Chutkan with instructions to allow the abortion to proceed as previously ordered.
“The clerk of the district court is directed to return forthwith the mandate issued October 20, 2017,” the 6-3 decision read. “The case is hereby remanded to the district court for further proceedings to amend the effective dates in paragraph 1 of its injunction.”
Among the three judges who dissented in the ruling was Karen LaCraft Henderson, who contended that the teenager has no right to an abortion being in the country illegally.
“Despite her physical presence in the United States, J.D. has never entered the United States as a matter of law and cannot avail herself of the constitutional rights afforded those legally within our borders,” she wrote. “Because she has never entered the United States, J.D. is not entitled to the due process protections of the Fifth Amendment.”
Henderson also noted that even the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “the government has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life.”
However, the girl asserted in a statement on Wednesday that “this is my life, my decision,” and that she “want[ed] a better future.”
“I dream about studying, becoming a nurse, and one day working with the elderly,” she said.
As previously reported, in an introductory lecture to his course on obstetrics in 1854, Philadelphia Dr. Hugh Lennox Hodge explained that if a woman were to come to a medical doctor in pursuit of an abortion, “he must, as it were, grasp the conscience of his weak and erring patient and let her know in language not to be misunderstood that she is responsible to her Creator for the life of the being within her.”