An undocumented teenager’s fight for reproductive rights is seeing a new challenge in the form of the Trump administration.
The contentious case came into the national spotlight on Monday, and has only escalated since.
Late Wednesday evening, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that the government had to permit a 17-year old illegal immigrant to travel to an initial abortion appointment. The girl is currently detained at a refugee facility in Brownsville, TX, and is three months pregnant.
Under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) – a division of the Health and Human Services Department – the teenager was initially denied transportation to an abortion clinic, despite prior approval from a judge.
The courts had earlier authorized her to have an abortion on September 25th, with an initial appointment scheduled three days later. Under Texas law, women seeking abortions must attend an initial appointment 24 hours before the procedure’s occurrence.
Rather than taking the law in stride, the HHS strove to circumvent the judge’s order. They took the girl to a pregnancy crisis center, and then called her mother to inform her of the girl’s intention.
On Monday, the HHS defended its decision by saying that it was acting within its rights.
“The Office of Refugee Resettlement is providing excellent care to this young woman and her unborn child and fulfilling our duty to the American people,” said the statement from the Administration for Children and Families, a division of HHS, as reported by Politico.
The statement continued to say “There is no constitutional right for a pregnant minor to illegally cross the U.S. border and get an elective abortion while in federal custody.
Judge Chutkan’s decision Wednesday evening came in the form of a temporary restraining order, which said the federal government had to allow the girl to receive her abortion within several days.
During oral arguments, Chutkan dismissed the Justice Department’s argument that undocumented minors lack constitutional and abortion rights.
Consequently, the Justice Department has filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, which is responsible for the care of undocumented minors in federal facilities, also pushed back against the ruling. Representatives for the division said in a statement that the judge’s order “sets a dangerous precedent by opening our borders to any illegal children seeking taxpayer-supported, elective abortions.”
Under the Trump administration, the HHS has routinely denied underage minors access to abortion services, even in cases of rape and incest.
Politico.com reported on Tuesday that the 17-year old girl at the center of the debate had independently secured the funds for her abortion procedure and had been approved by another judge to undergo the procedure without parental consent.
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