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Trump administration says pregnant, undocumented teen will be released within the week

She's trying to force the administration to let her get an abortion.

by Carter Sherman
Jan 13 2018, 12:14am

The Trump administration hopes to release an undocumented, pregnant teenager from federal custody within the next week, after the teen accused the administration of blocking her from getting an abortion.

“Jane Moe,” as the 17-year-old teenager was dubbed in court records, is currently in the custody of a shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which handles all minors who enter the United States alone and without authorization. In paperwork filed Thursday, Moe said she first asked the Office for an abortion two weeks ago, but they refused to give her permission for the procedure.

In court documents filed Friday, however, Trump administration officials say they will likely be able to release Moe into the custody of a sponsor by next Friday. Because Moe is 17 weeks into her pregnancy, waiting one week “would not impose such a burden,” lawyers for the Trump administration argue.

Most states do not restrict access to abortion until a pregnancy is at least 20 weeks along, though the risk of abortion-related complications increases the later the procedure is performed.

Moe’s would-be sponsor must still undergo fingerprinting and a background check, but the government estimates those procedures could be completed quickly. After being released into the custody of the sponsor, Moe would be free to get an abortion.

“The government has strong and constitutionally legitimate interests in promoting its interest in protecting fetal life, in declining to facilitate abortion,” lawyers for the Trump administration write in court filings, “and in not providing incentives for pregnant minors to illegally cross the border to obtain elective abortions while in federal custody.”

Moe is the fourth pregnant, undocumented teen to publicly allege that the Trump administration is stopping her from getting an abortion. And the question of whether these teens can secure sponsors before they run out of time to get abortions — and whether it’s constitutional to ask them to wait at all — has repeatedly come up.

The first teen to sue the Trump administration over the issue, Jane Doe, was initially told that she had to wait 10 days to get an abortion, after a federal appeals court ruled to give the Trump administration more time to find her a sponsor. A full panel of judges overturned that ruling just four days later, clearing the way for Doe to get her abortion.

Administration lawyers, however, point out that Doe had to wait seven weeks for an abortion. Moe, who first asked for an abortion two weeks ago, hasn’t had to wait as long.

A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Moe, declined to comment on the filing. The ACLU is required to submit its response by 5 p.m. on Saturday, though it’s possible that a judge may rule on the case before that deadline.

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