This afternoon in Washington, D.C., the American Civil Liberties Union and Trump administration will square off in an ongoing legal skirmish over the attempt of a teenage immigrant in a detention center to get an abortion. (Update: U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that the federal agencies in Texas can't prevent her from having an abortion or reveal her decision to have one to anyone else.)
With Texas law in the spotlight, it's not surprising that the state Attorney General Ken Paxton has inserted himself into the case.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services is refusing allow a 17-year-old girl from Central America, who has been detained for entering the country illegally through Mexico, to get an abortion. Officials have refused. Her parents are not with her, and she's in the custody of HHS at a shelter in Brownsville. The ACLU is asking the district court to issue a temporary restraining order to force HHS to be take "Jane Doe" to a clinic for an abortion or move her somewhere she can get one. It is also seeking a preliminary injunction to cover others in her situation.
The attorneys general of Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Carolina joined Paxton in filing an amicus brief supporting the federal government's position. Paxton and the other AGs say the ACLU is arguing that the Constitution "confers on unlawfully present aliens the right to an abortion on demand."
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“Texas has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life," Paxton said in a release. "Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions ... If ‘Doe’ has a right to an abortion, it is difficult to imagine what other constitutional protections she would not enjoy by extension.”
The ACLU says the plaintiff followed Texas law, which requires either parental consent or a judicial waiver before a minor can get an abortion. In this case, the plaintiff argues that she went to court with "an appointed guardian" and obtained the necessary judicial waiver.
"While the young woman has legal authority to obtain an abortion, the federal government has stepped in to block her from being transported to a clinic," the ACLU claims. "They instead required her to visit a religiously affiliated 'Crisis Pregnancy Center' to undergo counseling to continue the pregnancy, and she was required to have a sonogram conducted by nonmedical personnel against her will."
“It’s unprecedented, it’s unconstitutional and it’s also unconscionable,” said Brigitte Amiri, the ACLU attorney representing the girl.