Lawsuit: 2 immigrant teens in US custody can't get abortions

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's administration is blocking two pregnant teens in the country illegally and being held in federal custody from obtaining abortions, the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday, a repeat of the situation that led to a high-profile court fight earlier this year.

Both girls arrived in the country as unaccompanied minors and are being held in federal shelters, the ACLU said, though it didn't say where. The ACLU earlier this year represented a pregnant teen in the same circumstances in Texas, helping her obtain an abortion following a lawsuit.

On Friday evening, the ACLU filed court papers updating the lawsuit filed in that earlier case to include the two additional teens, saying the facts of their cases are similar. The ACLU is asking a federal judge to order the government not to interfere with or obstruct the girls' access to abortions.

"Both minors have asked their respective doctors and their shelters for an abortion, but to date," the government has "not allowed them to access abortion," the ACLU wrote.

The judge overseeing the case has set a hearing for Monday. The same judge previously ruled in favor of the ACLU's first plaintiff, referred to as Jane Doe.

Lawyers for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for sheltering children who illegally enter the country unaccompanied by a parent, have said the department has a policy of "refusing to facilitate" abortions.

On Friday, HHS' Administration for Children and Families said, "The minors in this case — who entered the country illegally— have the option to voluntarily depart to their home country or find a suitable sponsor. If they choose not to exercise these options, HHS does not believe we are required to facilitate the abortion."

In court paperwork, the ACLU refers to the two new teens as Jane Roe and Jane Poe. It says 17-year-old Jane Roe learned in late November that she was pregnant during a medical examination while she was in federal custody. She decided to have an abortion but has not been allowed to, the ACLU wrote. The teen wanted to end her pregnancy by taking medication that essentially causes a miscarriage, but because of the government's "obstruction she is now past the point in pregnancy where she can have a medication abortion," the ACLU wrote. She is about 10 weeks pregnant, a court document says.

Court filings contain less information about the circumstances of the second teen, Jane Poe, who is also said to have "discussed her pregnancy options with a physician, and decided to have an abortion" but has not been able to have one, the ACLU wrote. The lawsuit says she "is quickly approaching the limit for abortion in the state where she is being detained."

The ACLU's earlier case involving Jane Doe concerned a 17-year-old who entered the U.S. illegally in September and was being held in a federal facility in Texas. She learned there that she was pregnant and obtained a state court order permitting her to have an abortion.

Federal officials refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others could take her to get the procedure. She was ultimately able to obtain an abortion after federal courts sided with her, but the Trump administration has accused ACLU lawyers of misleading the government during the case. The Trump administration says ACLU attorneys' actions deprived administration lawyers of the chance to ask the Supreme Court to block the procedure, at least temporarily.


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