Trump's DOJ Is Doing Everything In Its Power To Deny An Undocumented Teen An Abortion

by Joseph D. Lyons

On Wednesday a federal judge ruled in favor of a teenage undocumented immigrant's right to obtain an abortion, something the Trump administration has actively tried to stop. The Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Department of Justice had taken moves to stop the teen, who arrived from Central America and was caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in September, from visiting an abortion provider. Abortion advocates praised the initial ruling Wednesday, noting that every woman deserves abortion access, regardless of immigration status.

That victory, however, could be short-lived as the Department of Justice has appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, hoping for a stay on the decision. The lawyer arguing the case for the young woman — known as Jane Doe in court filings — is Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. In a statement to Bustle, Amiri made clear she will keep fighting to win her client's right to an abortion:

We should all be horrified that the federal government is doing everything imaginable to stop a young woman from getting an abortion. Even from this administration, it is shocking. We are not backing away from this fight. No one should have to go to court to get safe, legal abortion care, and certainly no one should be delayed for weeks in getting the care they need. We’re doing everything in our power to attain swift and certain justice for our client Jane Doe.

The initial ruling handed down Wednesday would have allowed just that, abortion advocates argue. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, affirms in a statement to Bustle that women's right to comprehensive health care (including abortion) regardless of immigration status. "More must be done to protect rights of other women and girls currently being detained and denied their constitutional rights," Richards says.

Currently, the unidentified 17-year-old is 15 weeks pregnant and has either parental permission or permission from a state judge as required by Texas law (it was not clear which one she had). But the HHS-funded shelter she has been staying in has not allowed her to go to the abortion clinic. Instead, federal workers took her to a "Christian pregnancy facility for counseling" against her will. HHS did not immediately respond to Bustle's request for comment.

Then the DOJ argued in court that because she was a minor without immigration papers in custody, she wasn't guaranteed the same constitutional protections awarded to all American women thanks to the Roe v. Wade decision. That's something that Judge Tanya Chutkan who presided over the case called "remarkable" in the court room. Bustle also reached out to the Justice Department for comment.

In her statement, Richards singled out criticism for the DOJ. “It is outrageous that the highest law enforcement entity in the country, the Department of Justice, would refuse to acknowledge the substantial obstacle that it is placing on this young woman’s ability to access abortion," she says. "In pursuit of its own political and ideological agenda, the Trump administration is putting women’s health and lives at risk."

NARAL President Ilyse Hogue also issued a statement in response to the case. "Women should be able to make our own decisions about our bodies, and that includes whether or not to get an abortion," Hogue said. "The same standard should apply to Jane Doe, and the many other women like her who face similar situations."

As for women who face similar situations, they may have to go through a similar process. In her ruling, Judge Chutkan wrote that “just because she’s here illegally doesn’t mean she doesn’t have constitutional rights." But Chutkan didn't apply her ruling to all minors in government custody, The Washington Post reported, which means that others in that position could potentially have to go to court to fight the Trump administration on a case-by-case basis.

No one should deal with federal officials standing in their way, the immigrant's attorney, Amiri said in a statement. "Her courage and perseverance are incredible, but no one should have to go to court to get a safe, legal abortion," Amiri added. "And no one should be held hostage to the extreme anti-abortion views of a handful of government officials.”