Constitutional Law

Federal judge's order to allow abortion for immigrant teen in the country illegally is stayed

  • Print

Updated: A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered the U.S. government to allow an abortion for a 17-year-old immigrant who is being held in a Texas shelter because she is in the country illegally. The order was stayed on Thursday by a federal appeals court as it considers a government appeal.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a temporary restraining order (PDF) to allow the abortion on Wednesday, report the Washington Post, Politico and BuzzFeed News. Her order requires the government to take the teen, identified as Jane Doe, to an abortion provider for counseling required by the state before having the abortion on Friday or Saturday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a stay on Thursday that allows the girl to go to the counseling appointment but temporarily bans an abortion, Politico reports. The order (PDF) says the stay is intended to consider government arguments “and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits.”

The girl, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, has been in the United States since Sept. 11. She had obtained permission from a Texas judge to have the abortion and planned to cover expenses on her own or through the help of her court-appointed guardian. The government had taken her to a Christian center for counseling against an abortion and had told her mother she was pregnant.

The government had asked the the D.C. Circuit to stay the ruling. Court filings in the case indicate the government wants to ban abortions for minors in its custody. That is a reversal from the Obama administration’s practice.

In oral arguments before Chutkan, Justice Department lawyer Scott Stewart said minors in the country illegally don’t have a constitutional right to an elective abortion in federal custody, unless there is an emergency. Chutkan asked Stewart if the teen had constitutional rights, and Stewart said he was not going to make that concession.

“That is remarkable,” the judge replied.

Updated at 10:57 a.m. with order being stayed.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.