An undocumented teen in federal custody had an abortion last week over the government’s objections, but the Department of Justice is still fighting the case.
They’re saying the lawyers for 17-year-old “Jane Doe” misled them, and they want the Supreme Court to reverse a key ruling in her case, which would pave the way for them to stop others like her from getting an abortion.
On Friday, the DOJ petitioned the high court to vacate a lower court ruling that allowed the undocumented detained minor known as Jane Doe to receive an abortion on Oct. 25. For weeks, the Trump administration had blocked the teen’s attempts to leave the federally-contracted shelter in South Texas where she has been held since September to attend her procedure appointments, despite the fact that she’d raised private funds to pay for the abortion and received a Texas state judge’s permission to have it.
The fight appeared to end on Oct. 24, when a panel of judges on the D.C. District Court of Appeals deemed federal officials’ actions unlawful, and ordered Doe be allowed to go to the clinic and receive an abortion.
The case intensified Friday morning.
The DOJ released a statement arguing that the Supreme Court should dismiss the lower court claims on behalf of other pregnant minors seeking abortions, and alleging that the ACLU lawyers representing Doe misled the government. They claim that “after informing Justice Department attorneys that the procedure would occur on October 26th, Jane Doe’s attorneys scheduled the abortion for the early-morning hours of October 25th.” The DOJ could have filed an immediate stay to stop the abortion on the 24th, but says they planned to do so the next morning under the impression they had more time. Doe got her procedure early the next morning and they were informed afterward. They ask for possible penalties against ACLU lawyers for supposedly not keeping the government informed about the timeline of Doe’s appointments.
ACLU Legal Director David Cole called the government’s actions “astounding” and “baseless.” Their team maintains that the court order allowed Doe to get the abortion immediately under law, and that the ACLU was “under no obligation” to delay Doe’s abortion as a favor to federal officials.
Anti-abortion activism has been a central effort in the Trump administration’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. ORR Director E. Scott Lloyd has told staff to prioritize life-affirming counseling, has tried to keep undocumented minors from meeting with their attorneys about abortion options, and has personally traveled to shelters to interfere in the reproductive lives of young girls in his care.
According to government documents received by the ACLU, there are hundreds of pregnant unaccompanied minors in federal custody each year. In early March of this year, there were 38 pregnant young people across ORR’s national network of shelter facilities.