Today, the DOJ appealed a ruling by a federal judge demanding that a pregnant 17-year-old being held in immigration detention in South Texas be allowed to travel to the nearest clinic to receive the abortion that she requested. Time is of the essence: Texas law bans abortions after 20 weeks, and the girl, who was apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border on September 11, is 15 weeks pregnant.
Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered that the girl, referred to as Jane Doe, be allowed to receive the pre-procedure counseling that Texas law requires today, in order to have the procedure on Friday or Saturday, following Texas’s mandatory waiting period. But the government has stalled, saying that because the girl is in the United States illegally, she does not have the right to seek an abortion, and that she should leave the country to obtain one. They also claim that allowing her to leave detention for the procedure would impose an undue burden on the privately operated detention facility. Neither the facility nor the federal government is being asked to arrange or pay for the girl’s medical procedure or transportation, and no such obstacle to her leaving the detention center was claimed when she was involuntarily taken to a Christian crisis pregnancy center to receive anti-abortion counseling over the past weeks.
Thousands of minors are apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border each month, and the ACLU, which represents Jane Doe, says that many of them are sexually assaulted either just before or during their trip to the U.S. The government has asked the court to return a decision by 9 p.m. tonight on whether or not she can be forced to delay her abortion yet again as her 20-week deadline approaches. Jane is now being faced with a choice between returning to the Central American country she fled in order to have an abortion, or being forced to give birth by the country she hoped would be a refuge. Unless the court acts quickly, and does the right thing.