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Judge rules detained teenage immigrant must be allowed to have an abortion

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

The Trump administration must stop blocking a pregnant teenage immigrant currently being held in custody in Texas from getting an abortion, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Administration officials have been refusing to allow the 17-year-old, known in court as Jane Doe, to travel to an abortion clinic from the shelter for unaccompanied immigrant minors where she is being held.

Lawyers for the ACLU, which went to court on Jane Doe's behalf, said that officials of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the department of Health and Human Services, had taken the woman to a Christian group that counsels pregnant women not to have abortions, but had refused to give her permission to travel to the clinic.

At a hearing Wednesday, a lawyer for Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions had suggested that because the woman was not legally a U.S. resident, she was not covered by the constitutional right to end her pregnancy.

U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan rebuked the government lawyers at the hearing. Her order directs officials to transport Jane Doe to the clinic of her choice and allow her to obtain an abortion by Saturday.

“At last, our client will be able to get the care she needs without federal officials standing in the way,” Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement.

“Her courage and perseverance are incredible, but no one should have to go to court to get a safe, legal abortion. And no one should be held hostage to the extreme anti-abortion views of a handful of government officials.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said lawyers were reviewing the ruling and considering how to respond.

The judge's "troubling ruling" sets a "dangerous precedent" that could lead to the U.S. becoming an "open sanctuary for taxpayer-supported abortions by minors crossing the border illegally,” the department said in a statement. 

The Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling.

3:01 p.m.: This post was updated with the Justice Department declining to comment.

4:06 p.m.: This post was updated with a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services.

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