The latest immigrant teen in government custody seeking to end her pregnancy has been released from a federally funded shelter, averting for now a courtroom showdown over immigration and abortion.
Attorneys for the teen, identified only as Jane Moe, said the Trump administration had been preventing the 17-year-old from accessing abortion services for at least two weeks. While the teen's release means she can have an abortion, it does not resolve a broader challenge to the administration's policy.
"While we are relieved that Jane Moe is reunited with her sponsor, the government blocked her from her abortion for more than two weeks, before deliberately moving her out of their custody only when we filed to take them to court," American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Brigitte Amiri said in a statement. "We continue to pursue all avenues to ensure that no other young woman like her is forced to continue a pregnancy against her will for purely political reasons."
Pending before U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan in Washington is the question of whether the ACLU can proceed with its larger challenge to the Trump administration's policy of refusing to "facilitate" abortions for unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border illegally. That policy potentially affects hundreds of teens being held in federally funded shelters.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Department of Human Services has said the minors have the option of returning to their home countries or finding sponsors in the United States, as Jane Moe did in the most recent case.
In December, court records show the head of the office, E. Scott Lloyd, refused to facilitate an abortion for a pregnant teen in custody who told officials she had been raped and had threatened to harm herself if she could not obtain an abortion. That teen's individual case ended when the Justice Department dropped its appeals, allowing her to obtain an abortion.
During the Obama administration, the government paid for abortions for teens in custody in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the teen's life. Officials also did not block immigrants in custody from obtaining abortions at their own expense.
In a court filing Sunday, deputy ORR director Jonathan White said Jane Moe had been escorted to her approved sponsor and officially released from government custody.
Jane Moe was the fourth teen in custody since October to ask a judge to intervene. An earlier case is pending before the Supreme Court. The administration took the unusual step of asking the court to consider disciplinary action against that teen's attorneys after government lawyers missed the time window for appealing before her abortion.