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Appeals Court Rules Undocumented Teen In Texas Can Have Abortion Immediately

Allison Shelley
Lara Chelian (center) and her mother, Renee Chelian, both abortion providers from Michigan, hold signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., as the justices her arguments in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt last year.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Tuesday that an undocumented teenager under federal custody in Texas can have the abortion she requested immediately, reversing a ruling issued Friday by a three-judge panel that blocked her from getting the procedure right away.

Days earlier, a three-judge panel from the appeals court ruled 2-1 that Jane Doe, as she is known in court filings, could not immediately have access to the abortion she requested. Instead, the federal government had until Oct. 31 to find a sponsor to take custody of the teen and transport her to an abortion clinic to have the procedure. Before that ruling was issued, Doe had an abortion scheduled for Friday afternoon that was ultimately cancelled.

On Tuesday, the full 10-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reviewed Friday's ruling from the three-judge panel and chose to reinstate a Oct. 18 district court decision from U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan. That ruling, which the Trump administration appealed, had ordered the federal government to transport Doe to her abortion appointments "promptly and without delay" or allow her to be transported by someone else. 

Under Texas law, minors need their parents' permission or a court order to have an abortion. Doe originally received her court authorization on Sept. 25.

But the federal Department of Health and Human Services has not allowed Jane Doe to leave the shelter where she is living under federal custody in order to get an abortion. The Office of Refugee Resettlement – a sub-division of HHS that oversees the shelter – has also refused to transport the minor. Doe is 15 weeks pregnant, and Texas law only allows a woman to terminate a pregnancy before 20 weeks. Her attorneys have urged the court to allow Doe to get an abortion immediately, arguing that the procedure would be riskier as her pregnancy progresses.


From The Texas Tribune

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