A federal appeals court has temporarily stayed a judge’s ruling to allow an undocumented teenage immigrant held in a federally-funded facility to receive an abortion.
The case stems from a teenager who is 15 weeks pregnant and was detained after crossing the southern U.S. border in Texas. Identified as Jane Doe in court proceedings, the teen was placed in a U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter to house unaccompanied minors. She requested an abortion for her unwanted pregnancy, but the U.S. Health and Human Services — acting on a new policy that prevents unaccompanied immigrant minors from obtaining abortions — barred it.
Because Jane Doe is a minor, she obtained a judicial waiver to have the legal authority to obtain an abortion. Instead, the federal government sent her to a “crisis pregnancy center” that discourages women against having abortions. She was also required to have a sonogram by non-medical personnel, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a ruling saying that the order “should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits” of a Trump administration attempt to overturn a federal judge order to allow the teen to get her abortion.
“The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for stay,” the ruling reads in part. A hearing for oral arguments is set for Friday morning at 10 a.m.
The move by the three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals comes less than 24 hours after U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan permitted the teen to get her abortion and ordered that she be taken to the nearest abortion clinic closest to her shelter. Hours after Chutkan’s ruling, both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice filed an appeal against her ruling Wednesday night.
Jane Doe’s case, which has made nationwide headlines, is not the first time the federal government has stepped in to block abortion attempts by undocumented teenagers detained in a federally funded shelters. The Health and Human Services Department has repeatedly intervened in similar cases where minors had to visit crisis pregnancy center or talk to a senior HHS official. In one instance, a young woman was forcibly sent to an emergency room after she took an abortion pill. In another case, Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Scott Lloyd personally visited a young woman to dissuade her from seeking abortion, according to the ACLU.
“There is a pattern of unconstitutional overreach of power in a minor’s abortion decision,” Jane Doe’s lawyer who works at the ACLU Brigitte Amiri, told Politico.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, the circumstances that led to Jane Doe’s pregnancy case is publicly unknown. However, experts believe that anywhere between 60 and 80 percent of immigrant females are sexually assaulted on their northward journey into the United States. Once federal agents detain unaccompanied minors at the border, the Office of Refugee Resettlement takes custody of them while they wait for their immigration proceedings. During this time, these children are often placed in shelters contracted by private organizations which can choose to deny medical services like abortion on religious grounds.
UPDATE: In a decision on Friday evening, an appeals court judge ruled to uphold “J.D.’s” right to obtain an abortion. The court gave “J.D.” until 5 p.m. ET on October 31 to find a sponsor to facilitate the procedure. If “J.D.” is unable to obtain a sponsor by that time, the court “may re-enter a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, or other appropriate order, and the Government or J.D. may, if they choose, immediately appeal.”