Undocumented Teen Has Legal Abortion After Lengthy Tug-of-War In Federal Courts

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The 17-year-old undocumented immigrant living in federal custody in Texas has finally had the legal abortion she requested over a month ago.

After a legal tug-of-war with the federal government, attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union representing the undocumented teenage girl claimed victory Monday — announcing that the girl (dubbed "Jane Doe") had undergone the procedure early that morning.

Doe entered the United States in September by herself, and went sent to live in a federal facility in Brownsville for unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant minors. Like federal prisoners, immigrants in federal custody are legally granted access to health care, including abortions. But when Doe found out she was pregnant, shortly after crossing into the U.S., her abortion request was unexpectedly denied by the feds, prompting the ACLU's involvement.

After weeks of hearings and appeals in federal courts across the country, the full U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted Doe access to an abortion on Tuesday afternoon.

Doe issued a statement after the decision:  "[I] came to this country to make a better life for myself. My journey wasn't easy, but I came here with hope in my heart to build a life I can be proud of. I dream about studying, becoming a nurse, and one day working with the elderly."

She chided the government for making her go to a "crisis pregnancy center" — non-medical religious centers that try to convince women not to get an abortion — instead of allowing her to access a legal, medical procedure.

"People I don't even know are trying to make me change my mind. I made my decision and that is between me and God. Through all of this, I have never changed by mind," Doe said.

"No one should be shamed for making the right decision for themselves. I would not tell any other girl in my situation what they should do. That decision is hers and hers alone," she continued. "This is my life, my decision. I want a better future. I want justice."

Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement calling Doe's ability to undergo an abortion "tragic." Paxton argued that unaccompanied immigrant children like Doe lack the constitutional right to reproductive health care, even if their sole guardian is the U.S. government.

It's the type of anti-abortion stance that the D.C. appeals court explicitly called out in its Tuesday ruling, granting Doe's access to the procedure.

"Surely the mere act of entry into the United States without documentation does not mean that an immigrant’s body is no longer her or his own. Nor can the sanction for unlawful entry be forcing a child to have a baby," wrote Circuit Judge Patricia Millett.