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Trump Administration Just Took an Extraordinary Measure to Block a Detained Immigrant Teenage Girl From Obtaining an Abortion

Trump Administration Just Took an Extraordinary Measure to Block a Detained Immigrant Teenage Girl From Obtaining an Abortion
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Just as federal officials accepted defeat in trying to prevent one undocumented immigrant teen from terminating her pregnancy, the Trump administration turned around and asked the Supreme Court on Monday to block the abortion of another teenage immigrant currently in custody.

This request was made despite a federal judge issuing a temporary restraining order, forcing the Trump administration to allow the two teenage immigrants currently in federal custody to have abortions as soon as this evening. They are both 17 years old and are both detained in federally-funded shelters in different states. Yet it is unknown why the administration continues to pursue their blockage of one abortion, but not the other -- especially considering the how far along each of their pregnancies are.

The girl whose abortion the administration is no longer attempting to block is 22 weeks pregnant, while the other girl, who they are still trying to block from having an abortion, is only 10 weeks pregnant. Neither the identities of the girls nor the separate shelters where they are living have been revealed to the public. The two teens are referred to as Jane Roe and Jane Poe.

The restraining order is meant to bar government officials from preventing the teens from leaving their respective shelters in order to have their abortions.

In the stay application filed with the Supreme Court on Monday, Solicitor General Noel Francisco even acknowledged that the girl in question is only ten weeks pregnant. The difference might be that they could have her out of federal custody and with a sponsor within two weeks.

"A stay here would preserve the status quo pending further adjudication...and would ensure that this Court need not choose 'between justice on the fly' and 'participation in what may be an idle ceremony,'" Francisco said.

The restraining order on Monday was issued by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee. The legal battle over the reproductive rights of undocumented minors first became a pressing issue in October when another immigration detainee, also 17 years of age, petitioned to end her pregnancy. This Jane Doe was eventually allowed to have an abortion.

In her order on Monday, Chutkan stated that there is a "need to preserve [the teens'] constitutional right to decide whether to carry their pregnancies to term." She also said that the same legal principles are at stake for these two girls as they were for the Jane Doe in October.

Furthermore, Chutkan wrote that if the government continues to block the teenagers’ access to abortion, they “will both suffer irreparable injury in the form of, at a minimum, increased risk to their health, and perhaps the permanent inability to obtain a desired abortion to which they are legally entitled.”

Since the start of this legal battle two months ago with the first Jane Doe, the Trump administration has maintained that undocumented minors in federal custody have no legal rights to abortion.

“We are deeply disappointed in the decision to grant a temporary restraining order that will compel HHS to facilitate abortions for minors when they are not medically necessary," said a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, which has custody over the teens under federal law.

"A pregnant minor who has entered the country illegally has the option to voluntarily depart to her home country or identify a suitable sponsor. 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.”

Brigitte Amiri of the American Civil Liberties Union, a lawyer for both girls currently seeking abortions, welcomed Chutkan's latest ruling.

"The judge’s decision is a reminder that both the law and justice are on our side. We’ve already seen the courts rule in favor of Jane Doe, and today justice prevailed for two more young women like her,” Amiri said. “Unfortunately, the Trump administration has shown no indication that they’ll abandon their cruel and dystopian crusade to block abortion access for some of the most marginalized people in our country. We’re prepared to keep fighting for as long as we need to.”

Less than an hour after Chutkan issued her restraining order, government attorneys appealed the ruling to the D.C. Circuit Court. The Justice Department then filed for the emergency stay, which is still in affected as three D.C. Circuit judges review legal filings from both sides of the case.

Like the original Jane Doe, the two undocumented minors in the latest dispute arrived in the U.S. without their parents and will have private funding to obtain the abortions they requested, according to the ACLU.