The government rushed Sunday to place an illegal immigrant teen with sponsors so it didn’t have to be involved in helping her get an abortion — hoping to head off yet another thorny test of the nexus between illegal immigration and constitutional rights.
The teen, known in court papers by the pseudonym Jane Moe, is the fourth instance in the last few months where the American Civil Liberties Union has fought to force the government to facilitate an illegal immigrant’s abortion.
After losing the first go-around, the government has been trying to find ways to release the illegal immigrants from custody so federal agencies aren’t involved in the abortion decision — though all sides expect an eventual showdown on the big constitutional questions.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler, filed a notice with the federal court in the District of Columbia on Sunday saying Jane Moe had been transferred to a sponsor inside the U.S., who is now responsible for her care.
Jane Moe is part of the surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) who began to stream into the U.S. during the Obama administration, pushed from their homes in Mexico and Central America by poor conditions and enticed to come to the U.S. because of lax enforcement here.
Under federal law, UAC caught at the border are supposed to be quickly processed by Homeland Security and then released to the Health and Human Services Department, which keeps them in government-run shelters while trying to find sponsors. The children can take years to deport — if ever.
The government tries to find sponsors quickly, but in the meantime the Trump administration says the girls are in its custody and it cannot under the law use taxpayer money to facilitate an elective abortion. The exceptions are cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life.
The ACLU had pushed for the government to facilitate the abortion over the weekend, saying every day the 17-year-old was forced to remain pregnant was an assault on her rights.
“Defendants are not entitled to a stay of one business day, let alone ten days. Doing so would only cause Ms. Moe further irreparable harm,” the ACLU said in its briefs.
Jane Moe was impregnated by her boyfriend back in her home country and the sex was consensual, the government says, so there is no exceptional circumstance.
She was the fourth illegal immigrant teen to demand the government facilitate her access to abortion.
Judge Tanya Chutkan has taken a dim view of the government’s case in previous instances, ordering abortions be facilitated.
In one case the government says a female lied about her age, claiming to be 17 in order to be eligible for the lenient treatment given UAC, when in fact she was 19 according to her birth certificate, which the U.S. government belatedly tracked down in her home country.
The ACLU insists the government is wrong and that the teen is actually just 17.
The ACLU also has asked a judge to certify a class-action lawsuit on behalf of what it says is a surge of pregnant illegal immigrant teens who want abortions.
Texas and a number of other GOP-led states have warned that the courts are inviting a type of abortion tourism. In a new brief filed Friday, those states said illegal immigrants with virtually no connection to the U.S. have baseline rights, but that doesn’t stretch to being able to demand the government facilitate abortions.
They said higher courts have recognized a “sliding scale of rights based on the degree” of someone’s connection to the U.S.
“Simply because an individual is a ‘person’ covered by the Fifth Amendment, it does not follow that the alien is necessarily ‘due’ the same scope of rights accorded to citizens or lawfully-present aliens,” the states said in their brief.