- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The federal appeals court in the District of Columbia ruled Tuesday that an illegal immigrant girl must be granted access to an abortion even over objections of the federal government, saying the Trump administration had “bulldozed over constitutional lines.”

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overruled a three-judge panel, which last week gave the government until the end of the month to find a sponsor for the girl, identified only as “J.D.” in court documents.

The 17-year-old, who is being held in a government-run shelter in Brownsville, Texas, now may obtain an abortion.

“Today’s decision rights a grave constitutional wrong by the government,” Judge Patricia Millett said in her opinion. “Remember, we are talking about a child here. A child who is alone in a foreign land. A child who, after her arrival here in a search for safety and after the government took her into custody, learned that she is pregnant. J.D. then made a considered decision, presumably in light of her dire circumstances, to terminate that pregnancy.”

In the 6-3 ruling, all Democrat-appointed judges ruled in favor of the abortion and three Republican-appointed judges dissented. One judge did not participate in the decision.

The dissenters said the ruling seems to establish that illegal immigrants have the same rights to abortion in the U.S. as citizens.

“By virtue of my colleagues’ decision, a pregnant alien minor who attempts to enter the United States illegally is entitled to an abortion, assuming she complies with state abortion restrictions once she is here,” Judge Karen Henderson wrote in her dissent.

J.D. entered the U.S. illegally last month from Mexico as part of the surge of unaccompanied alien children — juveniles traveling without their parents who have streamed into the country in the past five years.

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

If the children have family in the U.S., they typically are 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 case, one relative was contacted as a potential sponsor but declined to take the girl. J.D. was informed of her pregnancy at the shelter, which is required to perform medical checkups for new arrivals.

Judge Henderson questioned that version of events, saying it was “highly likely she knew when she attempted to enter the United States that she was pregnant.”

“Notably, elective abortion is illegal in J.D.’s home country,” the judge wrote.

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

The refugee resettlement office has said it cannot transport J.D. to an abortion clinic because it would require spending taxpayer funds.

The government said if the girl wanted an abortion, she could voluntarily return to her home country.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which defended J.D., said she is racing the clock because she is so far along in her pregnancy. It said she needs to have the procedure soon or face a difficult burden in finding a doctor who will perform the procedure.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan sided with J.D., ruling that the government had to take the girl to get an abortion or let her leave. A three-judge panel of the appeals court stayed that ruling, giving the government until Oct. 31 to find a sponsor to take responsibility for the girl and presumably to facilitate the abortion.

The full appeals court ruling Tuesday sent the case back to Judge Chutkan, who immediately issued an order demanding that the girl be given access to an abortion “promptly and without delay.”

A spokesperson for the Justice Department said it was reviewing the order and wouldn’t comment on a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, called the decision a tragedy and said the court “put the partisan interests of abortion over a teenager’s true needs for help.”

“The United States should not become an abortion destination spot for the world. Shame on Planned Parenthood and the ACLU for using this teenager to try and create Roe v. Wade 2.0 in the courts,” said Ms. Hawkins.

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