Federal Judge Overrules Trump Administration to Grant Undocumented Teen Access to Abortion


On Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Of Columbia Circuit ruled 6-3 that an undocumented teenage immigrant currently being held in federal custody must be allowed to proceed with her planned abortion, despite efforts by the Trump administration to block the procedure.

As part of the court’s decision, Judge Patricia Millett said that the ruling “rights a grave constitutional wrong by the government,” and that the 17-year-old Jane Doe had done everything right to obtain the procedure according to Texas law.

“Remember, we are talking about a child here,” Millett said. “A child who is alone in a foreign land.”

The young woman, who is not asking for the federal government to pay for the procedure, is currently in her second trimester of pregnancy. She had previously been granted permission by the courts to have an abortion, but had been blocked by the Trump administration, who appealed the ruling. In their appeal, the Department of Justice claimed that they had (emphasis mine)

strong and constitutionally legitimate interests in promoting childbirth, in refusing to facilitate abortion, and in not providing incentives for pregnant minors to illegally cross the border to obtain elective abortions while in federal custody.

However, in her initial ruling granting Doe’s procedure to move ahead, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan made clear that “Just because [Doe is] here illegally doesn’t mean she doesn’t have constitutional rights.”

In Tuesday’s ruling, Judge Millett appeared to emphatically concur with Judge Chutkan, writing:

It is unclear why undocumented status should change everything. Surely the mere act of entry into the United States without documentation does not mean that an immigrant’s body is no longer her or his own. Nor can the sanction for unlawful entry be forcing a child to have a baby.

It is unclear whether the federal government plans to challenge Tuesday’s ruling.

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