A federal judge has ordered the U.S. government to allow an undocumented teenager in their custody to have an abortion. Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington said on Wednesday that she was “astounded” at the Trump administration for trying to prevent the procedure.
Lawyers for Attorney General Jeff Session relayed to the Washington Judge that the 17-year-old, who crossed the border from Mexico illegally last month, did not have a constitutional right to an abortion while in federal custody. The exception would be if there were a medical emergency.
The federal judge, appointed to her position by former President Obama, said that the government was presenting the teenager known as “Jane Doe” with two options: Voluntarily return to a nation she fled to procure an abortion or carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Chutkan said in a 40-minute hearing, “I am astounded by that position.” She ordered the government to transport the teenager to have the procedure “promptly and without delay.”
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the teen, not only asked Chutkan for an emergency restraining order for this individual but also sought a preliminary injunction to protect others seeking abortions.
Brigitte Amiri, a lawyer for the ACLU, argued that it was “out of any sort of constitutional bounds” for the U.S. government to block the teenager’s legal right to an abortion. But the lawyer for the Justice Department told the judge that pregnant undocumented minors from other countries are not entitled to abortions, and said that opening the door to that right “would significantly infringe on the government’s interests in preserving life and protecting national boundaries.” Jeff Session’s lawyer continued, “I respectfully disagree that she’s entitled to an abortion” facilitated by the government, he said, noting that the girl’s case was not a medical emergency. The government said it has “strong and constitutionally legitimate interests in promoting childbirth, in refusing to facilitate abortion, and in not providing incentives for pregnant minors to illegally cross the border to obtain elective abortions while in federal custody.”
Judge Chutkan countered the Justice Department’s legal team by answering her own questions, saying the girl’s legal status was “irrelevant” and that “despite the fact that she’s in this country illegally, she still has constitutional rights.”
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Credit: Chicago Tribune