Another undocumented pregnant teenager is alleging that Trump administration officials have blocked her from obtaining an abortion and joined a lawsuit against the government Thursday.
The 17-year-old, referred to as “Jane Moe” in court documents, is the latest of four undocumented teenagers who were in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) who have joined the suit led by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking access to abortions.
The ACLU is seeking a temporary restraining order that would require the Trump administration to allow Moe to obtain the abortion. More broadly, the ACLU is also petitioning the US District Court for the District of Columbia to issue an order that would prevent the Trump administration and the ORR from blocking any future undocumented minors from receiving abortions. The court has not yet made a decision regarding the request.
Moe is in her second trimester of pregnancy in a state that has limits on when abortions can be provided, the lead ACLU lawyer on the case, Brigitte Amiri, told BuzzFeed News.
According to the ACLU, Moe requested an abortion two weeks ago. Staff at the shelter where she is being held agreed to accompany her to the appointment, and she has private funds available to her to pay for the procedure, the ACLU said. But instead, the ORR brought Moe to visit a women’s clinic dedicated to discouraging women from obtaining abortions, the ACLU said in a statement.
“The Jane in this case, Jane Moe -- who entered the country illegally -- has the option to voluntarily depart to her home country or find a suitable sponsor," a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, of which the ORR is a part, told Buzzfeed News in a statement.
"If she chooses not to exercise these options, HHS does not believe we are required to facilitate Jane Moe’s abortion, out of concern and responsibility for the mother’s best interests.”
For two of the minors who had previously joined the lawsuit — referred to as “Jane Doe” and “Jane Poe” — federal judges granted temporary restraining orders against the Trump administration and the teenagers were able to obtain abortions. In the process of defending against the lawsuit, the Trump administration found that a fourth teenager involved in the case, “Jane Roe,” was actually found to be 19 years old and not a minor and transferred her to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. ICE then allowed Roe to obtain an abortion as well.
The Trump administration issued a new interpretation of a Department of Health and Human Services policy in March. It requires the head of the office to sign off on “any action that facilitates an abortion.” The current head of the ORR, Scott Lloyd, is a staunch abortion opponent and has denied the requests of the three women already participating in the case.
In previous cases, the Justice Department argued on the ORR’s behalf, saying that “declining to authorize abortions” does not impose an “undue burden” on the women’s abortion access, and is therefore not unconstitutional.
The ACLU will continue pressing its original lawsuit, which Roe, Poe, and Moe joined, challenging the Trump administration's contention that it has the authority to prevent undocumented minors in its custody from receiving abortions. The ACLU submitted a motion to have the judge approve the case as a class action on behalf of pregnant teenagers facing similar circumstances. They are currently awaiting for the judge to rule or to schedule a hearing on this motion.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at email@example.com.
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