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DOJ Asks Supreme Court To Strike Down Undocumented Teen Abortion Ruling

Callie Richmond
Texas Tribune

The Justice Department is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case of an unaccompanied minor in Texas who obtained an abortion last week.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has custody of the 17-year-old immigrant known as Jane Doe, prohibited her from obtaining the procedure last week, citing a new Trump administration policy. But then a federal court allowed the teen to get an abortion. Hours later, she got the procedure. Now, Justice Department attorneys are arguing the teen's attorneys misled them, causing them to miss a chance to appeal the decision.

DOJ attorneys sent a petition to the Supreme Court today, arguing that the lower court ruling should not apply to other minors in federal custody seeking an abortion.

The DOJ also accused the ACLU, which is arguing the case on behalf of the teen, of misleading federal officials.

“The ACLU misled the United States as to the timing of Jane Doe’s abortion,” Department of Justice Spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement today. “After informing Justice Department attorneys that the procedure would occur on October 26th, Jane Doe’s attorneys scheduled the abortion for the early morning hours of October 25th, thereby thwarting Supreme Court review.”

In the same statement, O’Malley says “discipline may be warranted against Jane Doe’s attorneys.”

But David Cole with the ACLU says there was no misrepresentation, and that the ACLU told federal officials everything they needed to know about the girl’s appointments.

“The court order allowed Jane Doe to obtain an abortion as soon as lawfully possible and she did,” Cole says. “So, it’s really their fault for failing to act in a timely manner, and now they are trying to shift the blame to the ACLU.”

He says once the girl was given clearance from the court to undergo the procedure, ACLU attorneys tried to get her an appointment with another doctor on Oct. 25. However, Cole says, the Justice Department didn’t do its part. So, Cole says, the ACLU made a quick appointment with the original doctor who had counseled her several days prior.

“I think the federal government slept on its rights," Cole said. “It did not act promptly – either to allow her to pursue her rights or to pursue its own appeal.”

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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