18:57, December 18 219 0 abajournal.com

2017-12-18 18:57:06
Two more immigrant teenagers ask to have abortions while in federal custody

Two more pregnant teenagers in the custody of federal immigration authorities asked a Washington, D.C. federal district judge today for an order forcing the federal government not to block their abortions, the Washington Post and Politico reported.

The two teenagers are part of the same lawsuit as “Jane Doe,” the 17-year-old who petitioned the court in October for an order forcing the government to permit her to have an abortion. In that case, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a temporary restraining order allowing the procedure, and Doe ultimately underwent the procedure after appeals to a D.C. Circuit panel and the full D.C. Circuit.

The new teenagers are called Jane Roe and Jane Poe in court papers. Like Doe, they’re arguing that the federal government may not refuse to “facilitate” abortions for unaccompanied immigrant minors who are in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. The young women plan to pay for the procedures with private funds, but because they are in federal custody, must still compel authorities to allow them to visit doctors.

The Post says Chutkan “seemed skeptical” about the government’s claims at Monday morning’s hearing. DOJ attorney August Flentje told the court federal authorities thought the abortion would not be in Jane Poe’s best interests “based on the concern about the impact on her,” but Chutkan questioned that, noting that Poe is being held in a state with no parental notification requirement for her age group.

“How does ORR have more right over her than her parent?” the judge reportedly said.

The judge said she would rule expeditiously.

In court papers, the federal government defends its policy, saying it “has strong and constitutionally legitimate interests in promoting its interest in life, 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.” The ACLU, which is representing the teens, says this policy amounts to an unconstitutional ban on abortion. Politico says Scott Lloyd, the head of the HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has authority over unaccompanied immigrant minors, is active in opposition to abortion and meets personally with every unaccompanied minor in HHS custody who seeks an abortion.

Unaccompanied immigrant minors are taken into shelters run by HHS until a relative or sponsor can be found for them in the United States. Court filings say 18 such teenagers requested abortions in fiscal 2017, which began before President Donald Trump took office. Under former president Barack Obama, the government did not block abortions for unaccompanied minors in federal custody, but did not pay for them except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the mother’s life.

The earlier Jane Doe case generated an unusual side dispute over whether attorneys for Doe made misleading statements about when and whether Doe could get an abortion. Doe was being held in Texas, where the law requires counseling 24 hours prior to Doe’s abortion. That counseling had already taken place, so Doe’s attorneys were able to arrange the procedure soon after the D.C. Circuit’s order.

The Justice Department did not immediately petition the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, and it argues that Doe’s attorneys misled them into thinking the abortion would take more time. The ACLU says in its response that there was no such representation, and that DOJ attorneys should have acted more quickly.