The full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered the federal government to allow a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant to have an abortion, just days after three of its judges ruled she would have to keep waiting to get the procedure.
“Today’s decision rights a grave constitutional wrong by the government. Remember, we are talking about a child here. A child who is alone in a foreign land,” Judge Patricia Millett wrote in a concurring opinion for the 6-3 decision.
The order supersedes a Friday decision issued by three judges from the panel who ruled that the Central American teen staying in a government detention facility — dubbed “Jane Doe” in court papers — needed to find an immigration sponsor to take her in before she could have an abortion. The judges gave the government until Oct. 31 to find such a sponsor.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union asked the full D.C. court to rehear the case late Sunday, arguing that deadline was too late for Doe, who’s believed to be in her 16th week of pregnancy. Texas law forbids abortions after 20 weeks.
Doe originally secured permission to get an abortion weeks ago from a state judge, a requirement in most states for minors who don’t want to tell their parents that they want an abortion. But the Department of Health and Human Services — which operates the shelter where Doe has been detained since entering the country in September — refused to allow Doe to get her abortion, arguing in court that federal policy doesn’t allow for “any action that facilitates” an abortion.
Judge Millett strongly disagreed with that notion.
“The government has insisted that it may categorically blockade exercise of her constitutional right unless this child (like some kind of legal Houdini) figures her own way out of detention,” she wrote, adding that this position “bulldozed over constitutional lines” and was “constitutionally untenable.”
Emails obtained by ACLU and shared with VICE News show that the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement Scott Lloyd, a vehement pro-life activist, has been personally meeting with pregnant women in immigrant detention centers and attempting to prevent them from getting abortions.
Doe still can’t get an abortion immediately. The original district court order allowing her to get the procedure now needs to be amended to allow her to schedule a new appointment.
A spokesperson for the Administration for Children and Families, which is overseeing Doe’s case, didn’t immediately return VICE News’ request for comment.