US judge orders government to allow abortion for undocumented teen | News | DW | 19.10.2017
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US judge orders government to allow abortion for undocumented teen

A federal judge has ordered Donald Trump's administration to allow an undocumented teen in custody to have an abortion. Despite previously getting a court order for the procedure, officials refused to transport the teen.

A 17-year-old immigrant who was detained after entering the country illegally should not be "obstructed" by government officials from having an abortion, a US federal judge ruled on Wednesday in Washington DC.

Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered US President Donald Trump's administration to move "promptly and without delay" to transport or allow the teen to be brought by others to the abortion provider closest to her shelter in Texas.

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The order also temporarily bars officials from "retaliating against" the girl for her decision to undergo an abortion as well as stopping officials from revealing her decision or forcing her to disclose her decision.

"I do not want to be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against my will," the teen, who was not identified due to her status as a minor, said in a statement filed with the court Friday.

She previously received a court order permitting her to have the procedure and scheduled several appointments with a doctor. However, the government officials who administer the Texas facility where the girl is located refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that she may be taken to a clinic.

Instead, the girl was taken to a crisis pregnancy center, where women are discouraged from having abortions.

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Appeal filed

The Trump administration quickly appealed the ruling on Wednesday night, Politico reported. Previously, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is responsible for sheltering unaccompanied minors, called Judge Chutkan's ruling "troubling."

The HHS said it wanted "to ensure our country does not become an open sanctuary for taxpayer-supported abortions by minors crossing the border illegally."

Brigitte Amiri, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told Politico she was concerned that the government's appeal was a tactic to delay the case until the teen will no longer be legally allowed to have the procedure.

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Under Texas state law, abortions are banned in a majority of cases after 20 weeks. The teen is believed to be around 15 weeks pregnant.

Judge 'astounded' by government arguments

The hearing on Wednesday reportedly involved a tense back-and-forth between Judge Chutkan and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Scott Stewart. At one point, Chutkan said she was "astounded" by the position the government took on the case.

Stewart argued in court that the girl was free to return to her country of origin to seek an abortion there. He noted that "the government is entitled to favor childbirth" and should not be required to facilitate women seeking abortions.

The judge noted that the government "had no problem transporting [the teen] against her will to pregnancy counseling where they attempted to change her mind."

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The ACLU argued in the case that the HHS is trying to stop all female minors in its custody from accessing abortions.

In emails obtained from Scott Lloyd, who heads the HHS office that oversees shelters for unaccompanied children, he appeared to direct subordinates to discourage abortions for girls at the facilities.

He noted that shelters receiving HHS agency funding "should not be supporting abortion services" but rather provide "only pregnancy services and life-affirming options counseling."

The judge challenged whether the government had a constitutional right to single out abortions from other medical procedures and block immigrants in custody from obtaining one.

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