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ACLU asks for review in case of undocumented teen seeking abortion

The ACLU is asking a federal appeals court for help in clearing the way for an undocumented teen in detention in Texas to end her pregnancy.

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Alanne Orjoux (CNN)
(CNN) — The ACLU is asking a federal appeals court for help in clearing the way for an undocumented teen in detention in Texas to end her pregnancy.

The group filed an emergency petition Sunday night in the matter of 17-year-old "Jane Doe," who is 15-and-a-half weeks pregnant and wants an abortion. "Every additional week the government delays her abortion increases the risks associated with the procedure," it stated.

The case was heard last week by a three-judge panel, but the ACLU is now asking it to be reviewed by the entire appellate court.

Because the teenager is a minor, Texas law required that she get parental consent or a judicial waiver to obtain an abortion. She came to the US without her parents, so she went to court with a guardian and was granted the right to consent to the abortion herself. However, the shelter in which she is living -- which houses unaccompanied immigrant minors and is run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement -- refused to transport her to have the procedure.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit on October 13 against the Trump administration.

"This administration has no shame and no regard for a woman's health or decisions," said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "Weeks ago, our client decided to end her pregnancy. Her decision has been disregarded and she's now been dragged into a protracted legal battle over her ability to get the care she needs."

The teen's case has bounced around the court system for weeks.

On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to allow her to be transported by a guardian or attorney "promptly and without delay" to an abortion provider to obtain state-mandated counseling and then to obtain the abortion.

But a three-judge panel from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals issued an administrative stay of that ruling Thursday -- with one judge dissenting -- to "give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion" filed by the government.

On Friday, after hearing oral arguments, the panel of judges ruled the teenager could have the abortion but delayed the process. The ruling set a deadline of October 31 for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to get a sponsor for the girl.

But in a declaration filed Sunday with the DC District Court, Robert Carey -- who served as director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement from March of 2015 to January of this year -- said it will take weeks or even months to approve a sponsor.

"The entire process involves many steps, including: 'the identification of sponsors; the submission by a sponsor of the application for release and supporting documentation; the evaluation of the suitability of the sponsor, including verification of the sponsor's identity and relationship to the child, background checks, and in some cases home studies; and planning for post-release,'" the declaration says.

"Under the panel's order, she will be pushed into November, pushing her closer to the point at which abortion is barred under Texas law," according to the ACLU. Texas law restricts most abortions after 20 weeks.

The ACLU says that the teen is not seeking assistance from the government to obtain the abortion, as her court-appointed representatives will transport her to the health facility and private funds will pay for the procedure.

"Our government has held her in this unlawful position for almost a month; this Court should not allow this injustice to continue any longer," the ACLU stated.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement Friday saying he was "disappointed" with the federal appeals court's decision because it gives the federal government time to find a sponsor for the teen "so she can be taken for an abortion."

"Unlawfully present aliens with no substantial ties to the US do not have a right to abortion on demand," Paxton said. "Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions."

The HHS division that presumably would be responsible for finding a sponsor -- the Administration for Children and Families -- issued a statement Friday night saying, "For however much time we are given, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and HHS will protect the well-being of this minor and all children and their babies in our facilities, and we will defend human dignity for all in our care."

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