BROWNSVILLE, Texas — The Justice Department on Thursday appealed a D.C. district judge’s ruling ordering a government-operated detention facility in Texas to let a pregnant, undocumented teen get the abortion she’s been seeking.
If the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals doesn’t act on the appeal, it’s likely that the Central American teen, called “Jane Doe” in court papers, will undergo abortion counseling Thursday. Under Texas law, a woman must undergo such counseling 24 hours before receiving the procedure.
But if Doe isn’t able to get her abortion this week, it’s unclear whether she’d be able to get one nearby. Though abortion is usually safe, it becomes more dangerous the longer a woman must wait.
“Every day you’re subjecting her to a longer, more involved procedure,” said Susan Hays, one of Doe’s lawyers. “If the government had respected her civil rights, she could’ve taken two pills and [be] done. And instead, there’s this.” The case has drawn national scrutiny over allegations that the feds are illegally trying to stop minors from getting abortions.
Doe was placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in September, shortly after she entered the country as an undocumented and unaccompanied minor. Though she secured the state’s permission to get an abortion without telling her parents, officials refused to let her get one. They forced her to go to a crisis pregnancy center — a religious, anti-abortion group — and told her mother that she was pregnant, according to one of the lawsuits filed against Office of Refugee Resettlement officials.
On Wednesday, Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that officials’ refusal to let her get an abortion would cause her to “suffer irreparable injury in the form of, at a minimum, increased risk to her health, and perhaps the permanent inability to obtain a desired abortion to which she is legally entitled.”
The Administration for Children and Families — a wing of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — called that ruling “troubling.” In a Wednesday statement, the agency said the government was prepared to “consider our next steps to ensure our country does not become an open sanctuary for taxpayer-supported abortions by minors crossing the border illegally.”
The Administration for Children and Families didn’t immediately reply to VICE News’ request for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment.