Teen Seeking Abortion in Texas Awaits Court Decision

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teen seeking abortion in texas
Activists with Planned Parenthood demonstrate in support of "Jane Doe," 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)

Teen Seeking Abortion in Texas Awaits Court Decision. The fate of an undocumented minor seeking an abortion in Texas remains in limbo as a U.S. appeals court in Washington, D.C., heard arguments from both sides Friday.

Teen Seeking Abortion in Texas Awaits Court Decision
teen seeking abortion in texas
Activists with Planned Parenthood demonstrate in support of “Jane Doe,” 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.

The case of Jane Doe, as she is known to protect the 17-year-old’s identity, was appealed by the D.C. circuit court a day earlier in yet another escalation of the case, which began when Doe obtained permission from a state judge, in lieu of parental consent, and raised private money to pay for the procedure.

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However, the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) has refused to grant her permission to leave the shelter for the abortion.

Doe has been detained in a refugee shelter in Brownsville, Texas, since September 11, when she was apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Finding a sponsor

One of HHS’s arguments against the teen being granted an abortion was that she could seek a sponsor — someone to host her as she goes through immigration proceedings, releasing her from the custody of the detention center and thus absolving the government of “facilitating” her abortion.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh asked both sides if they agreed that this would be the best-case resolution — allowing Doe to stay in the country and have the abortion without needing any assistance or permission from the government.

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However, HHS lawyer Catherine Dorsey could not provide a solid timeline for how long approving a sponsor may take, saying it could happen “fairly quickly,” while American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Brigitte Amiri argued the process “could take months.”

Time factor

Doe is 15 weeks pregnant; abortion is legal in Texas up to the 20th week of pregnancy. Additionally, fewer doctors perform abortions in the later weeks of the legal time frame.

Should the court fail to reach a decision before she reaches 17 weeks, Doe would have to travel “hundreds of miles” roundtrip to the nearest doctor able to perform the abortion, Amiri told the court.

A lower court had ruled that Doe was to be allowed to have an abortion no later than Saturday, but that ruling was put on hold by the appeals court.

HHS refused to take a position on whether someone in the United States illegally has a constitutional right to an abortion.

“I think it’s ludicrous,” Amiri told reporters of the government’s unwillingness to weigh in on the issue. “The Supreme Court has made very clear that anyone who is in the United States … has due process rights under the Fifth Amendment.”

Amiri argued that the government’s refusal to take a position marked an unwillingness to acknowledge “basic Supreme Court precedent,” citing Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling which makes it illegal to prevent an abortion before the third trimester.

She also argued that by repeatedly appealing the case, the government was harming Jane Doe emotionally and physically by effectively forcing her to stay pregnant.

But Dorsey argued that Doe had not only the option of finding a sponsor, but also the ability to willingly return to her home country and seek an abortion there.

Amiri told reporters that she was unsure when the D.C. circuit court of appeals would decide on the case.

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