Appeals court says pregnant immigrant teen may be released to sponsor, enabling her to get abortion

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Constitutional Law

D.C. Circuit

E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C., home of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Photo by By AgnosticPreachersKid, via Wikimedia Commons

A federal appeals court has found a way to allow an abortion for a pregnant teen immigrant who is in the country illegally without ordering the government to take her from federal custody to an abortion provider.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Friday set an Oct. 31 deadline for the 17-year-old girl to find a sponsor and for the government to release her to the sponsor’s custody. By government agreement, when the teen is released to the sponsor she can obtain an abortion, according to the order (PDF) released late Friday afternoon.

The girl, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, has been in the United States since Sept. 11. She had obtained permission from a Texas judge to have the abortion and planned to cover expenses on her own or through the help of her court-appointed guardian. The government had taken her to a Christian center for counseling against an abortion.

A federal judge had issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday that required the government to take the teen, identified as Jane Doe, for an abortion by Saturday. The order on Friday makes it possible for the girl to have an abortion without the government facilitating the procedure, the Washington Post reports. Courthouse News Service and the National Law Journal (sub. req.) also have stories.

The girl is 15 weeks pregnant, and Texas law bans most abortions after 20 weeks.

The D.C. Circuit order says that if a sponsor isn’t found and the girl isn’t released to a sponsor’s custody, the district court may re-enter a temporary restraining order or other appropriate order, and the government or the girl may immediately appeal.




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