WASHINGTON - A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday to grant an undocumented 17-year-old permission to seek an abortion.
The 6-3 ruling reversed an earlier decision by a three-judge appeals court panel to block Jane Doe, as she is known in court to protect her privacy, from having an abortion, which argued that the teen could seek a sponsor in the United States and, under that person's custody, move to terminate her pregnancy. The court said the requirement that a sponsor be found does not "unduly burden" the girl's right to an abortion.
But her lawyers quickly appealed the ruling, arguing that prolonging her pregnancy caused an emotional and physical burden on Doe, and that the government simply had to step aside, as opposed to facilitate, the procedure.
No basis to delay procedure
"There is no basis in Constitution to delay abortion," Jane Doe's lawyer Brigitte Amiri with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told VOA.
"The ACLU actually brought this case as class action to address other girls who have been in the same situation," Amiri said, noting that she was aware of at least three minor girls in this situation before Jane Doe, and that the ACLU hopes this case will prevent the government from "doing this ever again."
"It can be very harmful to delay an abortion — there are medical and psychological effects," Dr. Jenn Conti, ob-gyn and fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, told VOA. "The teenager [in Texas] has overcome extreme obstacles, she's come to this country by herself and she's taken steps to get an abortion, but she is still denied and held hostage against her will and forced to carry to term," she said.
Additionally, time is critical in Doe's case because under Texas state law, it is illegal to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. She is currently 15 weeks pregnant.
Supreme Court next?
The case could still be escalated to the Supreme Court.
Jane Doe has been detained in a refugee shelter in Brownsville, Texas, since Sept. 11, when she was apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Doe, 17, obtained permission from a state judge, in lieu of parental consent, and raised private money to pay for the procedure. But Health and Human Services Department (HHS) has refused to grant her permission to leave the shelter in order to obtain it.
The Department of Health and Human Services has jurisdiction over the welfare of unaccompanied minors who are caught crossing the border.