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Trump administration tries to block abortion for pregnant undocumented immigrant

 (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Lawyers for the Trump administration have asked a court for an emergency order allowing officials to block a pregnant 17-year-old immigrant in federal custody from having an abortion.

Thursday morning, the federal appeals court in Washington announced it would hold a hearing in the case on Friday.

The woman, known in court as Jane Doe, has been held in an immigrant detention facility in Texas since being detained after crossing the border in September. Soon after her detention, a medical exam found she was pregnant, and she began seeking an abortion. Although she got approval from a state judge to have the procedure -- a requirement in Texas for minors who do not have a parent's permission -- federal officials have refused to allow her to leave the detention center to go to a clinic.

Doe won a round in court earlier Wednesday when a federal district judge here ordered the government to allow her to obtain an abortion by Saturday.

But within hours, lawyers for Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions asked the court of appeals to put that ruling on hold, saying that she could still wait "a number of weeks" to end her pregnancy.

The appeals court, in its order Thursday, stayed part of the lower court order, saying that federal officials must allow Doe to go to the pre-abortion counseling session that Texas requires for minors. But the court put off the Saturday deadline for the abortion, itself, until the judges can consider the case.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which has custody of unaccompanied minors who are apprehended crossing the border, has a policy of not taking any action that would "facilitate" an abortion, government lawyers told the judges in their motion.

The young woman could get an abortion by returning to her home country, Justice Department lawyers said. 

"Even if she must choose between leaving the United States and the ability to seek an abortion," forcing that choice would not violate her rights "because Ms. Doe, as an illegal alien, has no legitimate right to remain in the United States," they wrote.

Requiring the government to allow her to go to a clinic for an abortion could "incentivize illegal immigration by pregnant minors," they argued.

Attorneys for the ACLU, which have represented Doe in court, called the government's move "shocking."

“We should all be horrified that the federal government is doing everything imaginable to stop a young woman from getting an abortion,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project. "No one should be delayed for weeks in getting the care they need."

8:48 a.m.: This post was updated with information on the appeals court's order.



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