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Published: Mon, October 23, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

DC Circuit's Dubious Compromise Won't Guarantee Undocumented Minor's Abortion Rights

DC Circuit's Dubious Compromise Won't Guarantee Undocumented Minor's Abortion Rights

An appeals court is blocking, for now, an abortion sought by a pregnant 17-year-old immigrant being held in a Texas facility, ruling that the government should have time to try to release her so she can obtain the abortion outside of federal custody.

If a sponsor isn't secured by that date, a lower court could issue a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction, the appeals court said. The court ruled 2-1 that the government should have until October 31 to release the girl into the custody of a sponsor, such as an adult relative in the United States.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of the teen, arguing that the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement was improperly preventing her from having the abortion and instead taking her to a crisis pregnancy center. It's unclear when the Court of Appeals will issue its ruling, or what Kavanaugh will decide to do: The panel could in fact order the case back to Judge Chutkan for some finding of fact, running the clock down a bit more and avoiding any definitive decision.

U.S. Magistrate Judge, Laurel Beeler rejected that maneuver on October 11, finding that Doe lacked legal standing to join the case because she is in Texas.

She obtained a court order September 25 permitting her to have an abortion. It's unlikely the same majority that upheld the "undue burden" standard for state abortion restrictions in the Whole Women's Health case past year - another Texas case - will decide it's okay for the federal government to literally hold a woman in custody until it's too late for her to secure an abortion.

ACLU's Brigitte Amari is the plaintiff's attorney in the case.

The HHS Department amended its mission statement earlier this month to reflect the Trump administration's official belief that life begins at conception.

The US Constitution grants all women - including prisoners and undocumented immigrants - the right to an abortion, no matter what obstacles fundamentalist Christians may create in certain states.

Telling the teenager she could have an abortion only if she leaves the US amounts to a penalty, Amiri said. Doe is believed to be around 15 weeks pregnant and in Texas, abortions are illegal after 20 weeks.

In oral arguments Friday, Amiri stressed the tight timeline for the decision. The attorney, Catherine Dorsey, also said the government should not be forced to "facilitate" an abortion by signing off on it or by providing her care afterward.

In a two-page decision, DC District Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to allow the girl, identified only as Jane Doe, to be transported by a guardian or attorney "promptly and without delay" to an abortion provider to obtain state-mandated counseling and then to obtain the abortion.

A US district judge ruled on Wednesday that Jane Doe should be allowed to go to pre-abortion counseling on Thursday.

"The government may not want to facilitate abortion, but it can not block it", US Magistrate Laurel Beeler told SFGate. He asked again and again about whether a sponsor could be found to take custody of J.D., effectively mooting the case in the process. At least one potential sponsor has fallen through. Additionally, fewer doctors perform abortions in the later weeks of the legal time frame. Matthew Bowman, who worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian anti-abortion legal advocacy group, is now a lawyer at the department, and a reported architect of new Obamacare rules making it easier for some companies to claim religious or moral exemptions to requirements that they cover the cost of birth control.

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