D.C. Appeals Court Rules For Teen Seeking Abortion While In U.S. Illegally : The Two-Way The larger appeals court reversed a decision by a three-judge panel that in effect put off the girl's abortion. She is in federal custody, and authorities refuse to release her for the procedure.
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D.C. Appeals Court Rules For Teen Seeking Abortion While In U.S. Illegally

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D.C. Appeals Court Rules For Teen Seeking Abortion While In U.S. Illegally

D.C. Appeals Court Rules For Teen Seeking Abortion While In U.S. Illegally

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In this next story, the national debate over immigration collides with the debate over abortion. A 17-year-old who's in the United States illegally has been trying to get an abortion for some weeks. The Trump administration resisted, but today, she is expected to get the abortion. NPR's Sarah McCammon is following the story of a woman known to us only as Jane Doe.

Sarah, good morning.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: And I guess we should clarify, we're just calling her Jane Doe because she's a minor. She's under 18. What is known about her, though?

MCCAMMON: Well, we know that she came into the U.S. from Central America without her parents in early September, according to her lawyers. And she's being held in a private facility in Brownsville, Texas, that contracts with the federal government. So because she's an unaccompanied minor, she is under the control of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

And Steve, late last month, she asked for and received permission from a state judge in Texas to get an abortion. That is required under Texas law because she's a minor. There's a parental consent law there. But the federal government has been blocking her from leaving that facility to get the abortion.

INSKEEP: So the federal government is acting - and I don't want to be too colloquial here, but the federal government is acting like her mom or her dad. I mean, they're saying, we are effectively in the role of a parent here, and we don't want this to happen.

MCCAMMON: Right, they have custody of her. They say they don't want to facilitate the procedure, as they put it. And we should note, Steve, the girl is - the young woman is not asking the government to pay for the abortion. That's prohibited, most of the time, under federal law. They do - she is asking to be allowed to leave to get an abortion.

In a court hearing I attended last week in Washington, attorneys for the federal government argued that they're looking out for her best interests in refusing this. And they say their goal is to promote childbirth and to protect fetal life.

INSKEEP: To promote childbirth - what do they mean by that, exactly, because that sounds a little different than protecting the life of the unborn, say?

MCCAMMON: Right, well, they talk about both. And clearly, it's the Trump administration's policy, you know, to oppose abortion rights, in many cases. And the - you know, again, the lawyers for the federal government say they see this as in the girl's best interest, that it's best for her not to have this abortion. The girl, of course, feels the opposite.

INSKEEP: And how did the court find?

MCCAMMON: Well, there's been a lot of legal back-and-forth. So at this point, a federal appeals court in D.C. has said the Trump administration can't block this young woman from getting the abortion any longer. Now, that's a reversal of an order from late last week by a three-judge panel that had said the government should find a sponsor for the young woman - the idea there, Steve, being the - someone who could take responsibility for her so the government wouldn't have to be involved. This reverses that.

INSKEEP: In other words, she doesn't have to find a sponsor. She can go ahead with this abortion should she choose to do so. Is that, then, the end of the legal battle or could we be looking at one more step?

MCCAMMON: Well, it depends on whether or not the government files an appeal. The federal government, as I understand it, still could do that. We were told that the girl received another round of counseling yesterday, as required under Texas law, and that she is expected to get the abortion today.

INSKEEP: Sarah, thanks very much for the update, really appreciate it.

MCCAMMON: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMBIENT JAZZ ENSEMBLE'S "JAZZ FACE")

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