News Law and Policy

Judge: Government Must Allow Undocumented Teen to Receive Abortion Care (Updated)

Tina Vasquez

“Just because she’s here illegally doesn’t mean she doesn’t have constitutional rights,” U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan said.

Read more of our coverage of Jane Doe’s case here.

UPDATE, October 19, 11:21 a.m.: The Trump administration late Wednesday filed an appeal with the D.C. Court of Appeals asking for an emergency ruling to block the ruling recognizing Jane Doe’s right to abortion care. The circuit court on Thursday issued an administrative stay, which could delay abortion care for the undocumented teenager.

After weeks of denying an unaccompanied immigrant minor access to abortion care, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on Wednesday ordered the federal government to allow the teenager to have the medical procedure.

Chutkan said the government appeared to be presenting Jane Doe with two options: Voluntarily return to a nation she fled to procure an abortion, or carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, the Washington Post reported. “I am astounded by that position,” Chutkan said in today’s 40-minute hearing, in which the judge ordered the government to transport the teenager to the procedure or allow her guardian to transport her “promptly and without delay.”

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Jane Doe, who is being held at a shelter in Brownsville, Texas, was prevented from accessing abortion care by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the federal agency overseeing migrant youth crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without a guardian. The young woman has been in the shelter around six weeks, longer than usual, and advocates told Rewire they feared ORR officials were purposefully holding the teen until she passed the 20-week mark in her pregnancy, leaving her unable to access an abortion at all.

If transporting Jane Doe to the nearest clinic requires passing a border patrol checkpoint, federal officials are “restrained from interfering with her ability to do so and are ordered to provide any documentation necessary for her to do so,” according to Chutkan’s order.

The order will expire after 14 days and only pertains to Jane Doe’s case, though other cases are emerging of the ORR denying teens access to abortion. According to Chutkan’s order, Jane Doe must be allowed to obtain the pre-procedure counseling required by Texas law on October 19, and to undergo the procedure on either October 20 or 21.

“Just because she’s here illegally doesn’t mean she doesn’t have constitutional rights,” Chutkan said during Wednesday’s hearing.

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