An appeals court on Thursday blocked a federal judge’s order that the government take an illegal immigrant 17-year-old to get an abortion, or allow someone else to take her. The abortion was to take place on Friday or Saturday morning.
A federal judge had ruled on Wednesday that the teen, who is living at a detention center in Brownsville, Texas, has a right to a taxpayer-funded abortion in the United States and ordered federal authorities to take her to the nearest clinic to have one.
The 17-year-old, referred to in court documents as “Jane Doe,” crossed the border illegally from Mexico in early September as an unaccompanied minor, according to court documents. Because she has not requested to return to her own country and has not named a sponsor in the U.S. who can take responsibility for her, she has remained at the detention center, in the care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
On October 5 she filed a lawsuit against the detention center and its employees for refusing to take her to receive an abortion.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took up her case, arguing that by not granting the girl the abortion, the government was forcing her to continue with the pregnancy against her will.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a brief supporting the federal government’s position that it cannot be forced to pay for abortion services for illegal immigrants. Joining Texas on the brief are Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
“No federal court has ever declared that unlawfully present aliens with no substantial ties to this country have a constitutional right to abortion on demand,” Paxton said last week. “If ‘Doe’ prevails in this case, the ruling will create a right to abortion for anyone on earth who enters the U.S. illegally. And with that right, countless others undoubtedly would follow. Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions.”
Paxton argued before the court that Texas has a “legitimate and substantial interest” in preserving and promoting the life of the unborn, along with an interest in “promoting respect for human life at all stages in a pregnancy.”
U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Scott Stewart argued in court that minors have no right to an abortion in the U.S. unless it’s a medical emergency, and said the teenager is free to return to her country of origin to get an abortion.
U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee, said on Wednesday that she was “astounded” by the government’s argument that the girl could leave the country if she wanted an abortion and ordered that she be granted the abortion, to be paid for by HHS.
But late Wednesday, the federal government appealed the ruling, and released a strong statement decrying the precedent that would be set if the judge’s order were allowed to stand.
“The United States District Court made a troubling ruling that exceeds the U.S. Constitution and sets a dangerous precedent by opening our borders to any illegal children seeking taxpayer-supported, elective abortions,” the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement to LifeZette on Thursday. “We are disheartened the ruling rewards ideologically motivated lawsuits filed in multiple courts by the ACLU and abortion advocates.”
The agency went on to say it would be looking to make sure that the U.S. does not become an abortion sanctuary for illegal aliens.
“Though the order overrides the policies and procedures of the Office of Refugee Resettlement designed to protect children and their babies who have illegally crossed the border, we will continue to provide them with excellent health care and protect their well-being in all our facilities. We will consider our next steps to ensure our country does not become an open sanctuary for taxpayer-supported abortions by minors crossing the border illegally.”
On Thursday, the D.C. Court of Appeals stopped Judge Chutkan’s order that the abortion take place pending a 10 a.m. hearing on Friday, with oral arguments to be presented by both sides before a three-judge panel. The panel is made up of justices Karen L. Henderson, Patricia A. Millett, and Brett M. Kavanaugh. Millett is an Obama appointee, while both Henderson and Kavanaugh were appointed by President George W. Bush.