Federal appeals court blocks undocumented teen's request for immediate abortion

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Friday that an undocumented teenager in Texas is not allowed to immediately have the abortion she requested. The Court gave the federal government until Oct. 31 to find a sponsor to take custody of the teen and take her to an abortion clinic to have the procedure.

The pregnant, undocumented teen, known in court filings as Jane Doe, was scheduled to terminate her pregnancy Friday. Although the court recognized her right to have an abortion, the ruling delays the procedure. Doe is 15 weeks pregnant; under Texas law, she cannot terminate her pregnancy after 20 weeks.

In the ruling, the court also noted that the federal government assumed that Doe has the "constitutional right to obtain an abortion in the United States."

"Justice is delayed yet again for this courageous and persistent young woman," said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project in a news release after the ruling.

"She continues to be held hostage and prevented from getting an abortion because the Trump administration disagrees with her personal decision.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Trump administration is forcing Doe to continue carrying her pregnancy against her will and time is running out.

Friday's ruling gives the Department of Health and Human Services until Oct. 31 to find Doe a sponsor who can handle her request for an abortion instead of the federal government.

“The Government argues that this process by which a minor is released from HHS custody to a sponsor does not unduly burden the minor’s right under Supreme Court precedent to an abortion. We agree, so long as the process of securing a sponsor to whom the minor is released occurs expeditiously,” the ruling stated.

The Court heard oral arguments Friday morning from the federal government and the ACLU.

The issue of finding Doe a sponsor was explored at length by the three-judge panel at Friday's hearing. Judge Brett Kavanaugh said he was “concerned” this option had not been explored more. Transferring custody of Doe from the federal government to a sponsor would allow the court to avoid making a blanket ruling on an undocumented minor's right to an abortion when under federal custody.

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