Supreme Court Vacates Ruling That Granted Abortion Rights to Immigrant Teen

The Supreme Court dismissed a previous lower court ruling in favor of Jane Doe, an undocumented immigrant minor who sought an abortion while in a federal detention center — effectively undoing any precedent the case might have set when it comes to future teens in custody hoping to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

The decision adds yet another twist to the Trump administration’s ongoing obsession with eliminating abortion access through every government entity it controls.

Last fall “Jane Doe,” a pregnant minor who was being held in a detention center for undocumented and unaccompanied immigrant children, sought permission to leave the facility long enough to obtain an abortion — a request that the staff denied.

Instead, officials tried to draw out the legal proceedings as long as possible in an attempt to keep the teen pregnant past the point in gestation when an abortion can be legally performed. The government argued that any action that allowed the teen to access an abortion could officially be deemed as “facilitating” the procedure, which was prohibited by federal law.

A federal court disagreed, maintaining that an immigrant in federal custody has the same rights to end a pregnancy as any other woman in the U.S., and Doe’s lawyers moved to have the abortion performed immediately before the Trump administration could challenge the move in a higher court.

And that’s why the case ended up at the Supreme Court, despite the fact that there was no longer any pregnancy to fight over.

The Trump administration wanted the Supreme Court to overrule the previous decision and find that they could, in fact, force a pregnant undocumented teen to give birth. Trump officials also sought a reprimand against the ACLU’s lawyers, who they argued acted outside of good faith when they took Doe for her abortion without providing the administration lawyers enough time to try to block it again.

However, the Trump administration didn’t really get its desired outcome in either instance. While SCOTUS vacated the prior ruling, making it impossible to use as a precedent for future cases, the justices didn’t actually decide that the administration has the right to overrule someone’s abortion — even if she isn’t a U.S. citizen and can’t specifically cite having the constitutional right to an abortion like other women can.

As for reprimanding the ACLU lawyers, well, the Trump team didn’t get that, either. While the Supreme Court’s actions may not have been helpful for future pregnant minors, the case certainly wasn’t win for the president, either.

Brigitte Amiri of the ACLU explained in a statement:

There has been a lot of confusion about today’s Supreme Court decision in the Jane Doe case, Azar v. Garza, but here are two big takeaways to clear things up. First, the ruling was limited to the case of one young woman, who already had her abortion. There is still a court order in place that prohibits the government from obstructing or interfering with unaccompanied minors’ access to abortion, and today’s decision does not change that.Second, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s baseless request to find that my colleagues and I acted unethically.

That the Supreme Court chose not to act as yet another arm of the administration is perhaps the most positive news from this court action. Considering the administration’s continuing habit of firing officials who disagree with the Trump agenda, attacking media outlets they believe aren’t treating the president fairly and otherwise using their power to punish anyone with an opposing viewpoint, seeing this failed attempt at demanding sanctions for Doe’s attorneys feels like a win.

Of course, this vacated ruling has only emboldened the Trump administration, and officials have vowed to continue to force pregnant immigrants in their custody to give birth — even if they want an abortion. “We look forward to continuing to press the government’s interest in the sanctity of life,” officials from the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services in a joint statement, according to the Washington Post.

And that “sanctity of life” refers life of the fetus, of course. The life of the pregnant immigrant doesn’t seem to matter to them at all.

Photo Credit: Jordan Uhl/Flickr

67 comments

Elaine W
Elaine W3 months ago

Noted. My body and its functions do not belong to the state. Fight against oppression of women.

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Tania N
Tania N3 months ago

Thank you.

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Tania N
Tania N3 months ago

Thank you.

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Tania N3 months ago

Thank you.

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Tania N3 months ago

Thank you.

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Tania N3 months ago

Thank you.

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Tania N
Tania N3 months ago

Thank you.

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Tania N3 months ago

Thank you.

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Tania N
Tania N3 months ago

Thank you.

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Tania N
Tania N3 months ago

Thank you.

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