Immigrant Teen's Access to Abortion Overturned on Appeal

Jane Doe has until Halloween to find sponsor to take her in, get her abortion
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2017 6:59 PM CDT
Appeals Court Stops Immigrant Teen From Getting Abortion
Activists with Planned Parenthood demonstrate in support of a pregnant 17-year-old being held in a Texas facility for unaccompanied immigrant children to obtain an abortion, outside of the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A federal appeals court Friday blocked a 17-year-old immigrant being held in a federal detention facility from getting an abortion days after a lower court ruled she must be allowed to get one "promptly and without delay," the Hill reports. In a 2-1 decision—the Los Angeles Times reports it was split between Republican-appointed judges and a Democrat-appointed judge—the court ruled the government must release the teen known only as Jane Doe to a sponsor by 5pm Oct. 31, at which point she is free to get a legal abortion. However both the judges and the teen's lawyers admit it will be hard, if not impossible, to find a government-approved sponsor by the deadline, according to the Washington Post. If a sponsor can't be found, Jane Doe's case will return to court.

Judges seemed reluctant to make a sweeping ruling on immigrant rights under such a tight time constraint. Jane Doe, who has been trying to get an abortion since last month, is 15 weeks pregnant. Texas, where the teen is being held, bans abortions after 20 weeks. The ACLU, which is representing Jane Doe, argues the government is violating her constitutional right to an abortion. The government argues that while the teen may have that right, the government is under no obligation to "facilitate" her abortion. (A judge pointed out the government does facilitate abortions for adult women in immigration detention or federal prison.) The government's Office of Refugee Resettlement is now being overseen by E. Scott Lloyd, who has a history of antiabortion activism and who court papers show has been personally trying to convince teens in shelters not to get abortions. (More abortion stories.)

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