Published: Sat, October 21, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Federal Court Hears Case Of Unaccompanied Teenager Seeking An Abortion In Texas

Federal Court Hears Case Of Unaccompanied Teenager Seeking An Abortion In Texas

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a 2-1 decision to find and release the 17-year-old girl - known in court documents only Jane Doe - to a sponsor by 5 p.m. on October 31.

Doe's attorney, Brigitte Amiri with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the young woman has been forced to continue her pregnancy against her will.

The government lawyer admits the reason Jane Doe can't have an abortion is that she is in HHS custody.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a short ruling that still allowed the teenager to be taken to a counseling meeting with the doctor who would perform the abortion.

Catherine Dorsey, the Department of Justice lawyer arguing for the government, responded by saying that an abortion procedure requires the written approval of the director of ORR-in this case, E. Scott Lloyd, a long-time anti-abortion lawyer.

Citing the judge's order, Richard added, "The fact that HHS officials had sent the young woman to abortion counseling against her will but were unwilling to comply with her desire for an abortion apparently irked Judge Chutkan".

Telling the teenager she could have an abortion only if she leaves the USA amounts to a penalty, Amiri said.

However, in reality, the government, motivated by anti-choice ideology, has obstructed her path to abortion by forbidding her to be transported to an abortion clinic.

Catherine Glenn Foster - the president and CEO of Americans United for Life, a pro-life group, condemned the Chutkan's initial order on Wednesday saying, "Americans United for Life is deeply disappointed that once again, an activist judge has declared abortion "access" more important than US law and policy that prohibits federal funding and support of elective abortion". "I suggest that the American people make a deal with women: So long as you are using the condom, pill or patch I am providing with my money, you are going to promise not to have an abortion if the contraception fails, which it often does", he wrote.

At oral argument on Friday, Judge Brett Kavanaugh pressed the government's attorney several times about why it appears to have a different policy for the teenager, who is identified in court papers as "Jane Doe", than it has for pregnant women locked up in federal prison and for adult women in immigration detention. The court said the process would not "unduly burden the minor's right under Supreme Court precedent to an abortion" provided that "the process of securing a sponsor to whom the minor is released occurs expeditiously".

The minor, who is being referred to as Jane Doe to protect her privacy, has obtained a judge's permission to have an abortion.

Doe already has the court authorization required for the procedure itself. The decision temporarily delayed Jane Doe's abortion, which had been rescheduled for Friday, Oct. 20.

A Department of Justice attorney argued on Friday morning that the government was not preventing Jane Doe from getting an abortion, because she had the option of voluntarily departing the US or finding a sponsor to live with. The Office of Refugee Resettlement - a sub-division of HHS which oversees the shelter - was also refusing to transport the minor themselves. Kavanaugh said he was "concerned" this option had not been explored more. Defendants have been talking to me about my pregnancy - I feel like they are trying to coerce me to carry my pregnancy to term. 15. At least one potential sponsor has fallen through.

Lawyers with the ACLU stressed that the sponsorship process takes too much time given the tight timeline for Doe to get the requested abortion.

A state judge in Texasruled in September that the teen could bypass the state's parental consent requirement to obtain an abortion. And then, "if they choose", both the government and Doe can "immediately appeal" the district court's decision. Texas state law requires women to receive counseling 24 hours before an abortion.

Eight attorneys general led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an amicus curiae brief on the side of the government in the case.

They argue that granting Doe access to an abortion would "create a right to abortion for anyone on Earth who entered the United States illegally, no matter how briefly".

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Amiri called the government's position "blatantly unconstitutional".

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