A federal judge ordered the government on Monday to facilitate two more illegal immigrant girls’ efforts to obtain abortions, warning the Trump administration against interfering with the migrants’ constitutional rights.
Justice Department quickly announced an appeal Monday evening, hoping to delay the decision, though a similar attempt in a previous illegal immigrant-abortion case failed.
In this latest case, Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered the Health and Human Services Department to transport the girls to an abortion facility, told them not to tell anyone else about the abortions, and ordered them not to retaliate against the girls for their decision.
The judge said she was acting to preserve the girls’ “constitutional right to decide whether to carry their pregnancies to term — including their right to change their minds regarding the same.”
The ruling is the latest in an ongoing battle between immigrant-rights and abortion-rights groups on the one hand, and the Trump administration and GOP-led states on the other.
The girls, identified as Joe Roe and Jane Poe in court documents, are 17 years old.
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They were caught trying to sneak across the border and are being held as Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC), which means they are in government-run shelters until they can be connected with sponsors.
The girls, both pregnant, have asked for abortions.
But the Trump administration says facilitating an abortion would mean spending federal taxpayers’ money to transport them and provide follow-up care — both of which, the government says, would violate federal laws that generally prevent taxpayers’ money from going to abortions.
Judge Chutkan ruled in a case earlier this year in favor of another 17-year-old girl, identified as Jane Doe. A federal appeals court initially blocked Judge Chutkan’s decision in that case, though the full court overruled the panel and allowed the abortion to proceed.
The Trump administration has since asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, saying the appeals court’s ruling cannot be allowed to stand because of the precedent it sets.
On Monday, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to step into the latest controversy as well, with a request to halt Judge Chutkan’s decision.
“This case concerns the question whether the government must facilitate an abortion procedure that is not necessary to preserve the life or health of an unaccompanied minor who unlawfully entered the country and thus is in the government’s custody. The answer to that question is no,” Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco wrote in the new request.
The Trump administration argues that if the girls are able to find sponsors willing to take them in as guardians, they will be able to make their own decisions. But while they are in the care of the government, officials are inherently involved in the decision, and under the law cannot facilitate an elective abortion.
Mr. Francisco said the government is trying to find a sponsor, but needs more time.
The state of Texas, which fought against the original abortion of Jane Doe, who was in a Texas-based shelter, is leading a coalition of states backing the Trump administration’s position in the Supreme Court.
“Unlawfully present aliens with no substantial ties to this country do not have a constitutional right to abortion on demand,” Texas Attorney General Paxton said Monday, after filing briefs in the case over the weekend.
“Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions. If the plaintiffs in this case prevail, there will be no meaningful limit on the constitutional rights an unlawfully present alien can invoke simply by attempting to enter the U.S. illegally,” Mr. Paxton said.