- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2017

A federal appeals court has given the Trump administration a deadline to find a sponsor to help an illegal immigrant girl get an abortion, or else face the prospect of having to facilitate the abortion using taxpayer money, in a case that has become a major test of hot-button issues.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled late Friday that the government has until Halloween to find an acceptable sponsor to take the girl, an illegal Mexican immigrant who is part of the surge of unaccompanied alien children who have arrived in the U.S. in the past five years.

The surge has stretched the immigration system, and this latest case is forcing the country to confront thorny issues such as the constitutional rights illegal immigrants have to abortions — and whether taxpayers are required to assist.

“This is a case which would incentivize an abortion-import business for illegal immigrant minor girls in defiance of state laws. And who is being asked to run the business? Taxpayers and the government office of refugee resettlement,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.

The circuit court, in an order issued by the clerk, evaded the sticky constitutional question by pressuring the government to put the young woman, identified as “J.D.,” in the custody of a sponsor within the next nine days to squash the government conflict over facilitating the abortion.

“The government argues that this process by which a minor is released from HHS custody to a sponsor does not unduly burden the minor’s right under Supreme Court precedent to an abortion. We agree, so long as the process of securing a sponsor to whom the minor is released occurs expeditiously,” Mark J. Langer, the court clerk, said Friday evening.

In a curious aside, the court said the federal government had assumed J.D. possesses a constitutional right to have an abortion.

“For however much time we are given, the office of refugee resettlement and HHS will protect the well-being of this minor and all children and their babies in our facilities, and we will defend human dignity for all in our care,” said an official from the Administration for Children and Families at the Health and Human Services Department.

The three-judge panel listened to oral arguments from both sides of the case earlier Friday. The Trump administration said the young woman, whose pregnancy is at 15 weeks, is not burdened by the government’s refusal to facilitate an abortion because she could have returned to Mexico for the procedure.

The hearing was a result of a stay issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Thursday that halted an abortion ordered a day earlier by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan.

The minor illegally entered the U.S. last month from Mexico without her parents as part of the surge of unaccompanied alien children who have streamed into the country in the past five years.

Under federal law, unaccompanied alien children caught at the border are supposed to be processed quickly by Homeland Security, then released to the office of refugee resettlement at the Health and Human Services Department.

If they have family in the U.S., they are typically sent to them. Otherwise, they are placed in a federally contracted shelter until a sponsor can be found to take them while they await the outcome of their deportation case.

In J.D.’s situation, one relative was contacted as a potential sponsor but declined to take the girl. She is being kept in a government-run shelter in Brownsville, Texas. She was informed of her pregnancy at the shelter, which is required to perform medical checkups for new arrivals.

J.D. fled Mexico because of abuse at home, where her parents live, and got a judge’s permission to have the abortion in compliance with Texas’ informed consent law.

But the refugee resettlement office has said it cannot transport J.D. because that would mean spending taxpayer funds.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the girl, says it has a doctor lined up to perform the abortion and that transportation is ready to take the girl.

The ACLU told the court Friday that girl’s constitutional right to an abortion has been violated and that she has suffered irreparable harm by the government.

“Every day she remains pregnant takes a toll on her physical and emotional health,” argued Brigitte Amiri, an attorney for the ACLU.

The Trump administration argued that the girl has other options. She could either get a sponsor in the U.S. — though none has stepped forward — or she could agree to be deported back to Mexico, where she can follow through with whatever options she has there, outside of U.S. custody.

Texas, meanwhile, said it feared becoming a “sanctuary state for abortion,” while pro-life groups worry about a surge of illegal immigrant women and girls hoping to take advantage of relatively unfettered access to abortion in the U.S.

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