Two teenagers being held by the Trump administration can get abortions, judge rules

Activists with Planned Parenthood demonstrate in support of 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. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Two pregnant, undocumented teenage women being held by the Trump administration should be allowed to get abortions, a federal judge ruled Monday. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit last Friday in Washington D.C., seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow the two teenagers to get the abortions they wanted before it was too late.

A judge ruled Monday that the teenagers, who have been dubbed Jane Roe and Jane Poe in court filings and are both 17 years old, must now be allowed to leave the shelters in which they are currently being held by the Office of Refugee Resettlement and taken to an abortion provider.

They were unable to obtain abortions as part of a new policy adopted by the Trump administration that bars undocumented minors from getting an abortion without the approval of the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The ACLU has called the new policy “blatantly unconstitutional” in court filings, and although the Trump administration has argued that doing so would mean the government was “facilitating” abortions, Roe and Poe’s procedures will be paid for with private funds, according to court papers.

Nonetheless, the Department of Human Services said in a statement following the ruling that they were “deeply disappointed by the decision to grant a temporary restraining order that will compel HHS to facilitate abortions for minors when they are not medically necessary.”

HHS also argued that the ruling will mean that young women will make the often dangerous trip across the border into United States in order to be detained and get an abortion.

“A pregnant minor who has entered the country illegally has the option to voluntarily depart to her home country or identify a suitable sponsor,” their statement said. “HHS-funded facilities that provide temporary shelter and care for unaccompanied alien minors should not become way stations for these children to get taxpayer-facilitated abortions.”

Despite the ruling, Roe and Poe will not be allowed to immediately get the abortions they seek, as the judge stayed the order to give the Trump administration time to appeal. Roe is 10 weeks pregnant and Poe is 22 weeks pregnant, according to Vice News. Although the ACLU has not released the locations of where the teenagers are being held, Poe could be quickly running out of time, as most states outlaw abortion between 24 and 28 weeks.

“Defendants’ actions have already caused Ms. Roe to delay her abortion by several week,” the ACLU said last week. “Ms. Poe is in her second trimester of pregnancy and is quickly approaching the point at which abortion will no longer be option; accordingly any further delay (however minimal) risks stripping her of her constitutional right to abortion.”

The ACLU filing on behalf of Roe and Poe is part of an open case filed earlier this year on behalf of another pregnant undocumented teenager, Jane Doe. Doe was detained in Texas, and she obtained a waiver to get her abortion, but she was sent to a “crisis pregnancy center” instead, which try to dissuade women from getting abortions. In October, after a prolonged fight, a federal appeals court ruled in her favor and she was able to get the abortion she sought.

The ACLU is hoping Doe’s case will set a precedent.

“We know that there are hundreds of pregnant young women in ORR’s custody every year,” Jennifer Dalven, the director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project told Vice News. “We’ve been able to find these three women, but we are certain that there are more out there. And we are hopeful that we can get a ruling that applies to all young women, so we don’t have to hope that they come to our attention and we are able to go to court for each individual young woman.”