Immigrant Teen Abortion Case Faces Supreme Court Hiccup

WASHINGTON (CN) – Attorneys for a young immigrant who faced federal opposition in her bid to undergo an abortion said a ruling in their case from the Supreme Court on Monday will have no impact on the ongoing litigation.

Sidley Austin attorney Carter Phillips represents Jane Doe, whose fight to get an abortion last year triggered a class action on behalf of pregnant minors who enter the United States unaccompanied by an adult.

Doe was placed in a federally funded shelter in Texas when she was apprehended at the border in September, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is within the Department of Health and Human Services, refused to let her visit an abortion clinic so that she could terminate her pregnancy.

Though Doe finally underwent the procedure after prevailing at the D.C. Circuit, her lawsuit seeks classwide relief.

On Monday, the Supreme Court found that the mootness of the relevant claim did not stand in the way of the government’s petition for a writ of certiorari.

“The unique circumstances of this case and the balance of equities weigh in favor of vacatur,” the unsigned opinion states.

Attorney Phillips brushed off the ruling meanwhile a compromise whose “impact on the ongoing litigation is nil.”

“Because the order is expressly limited to Jane Doe’s claims, it has no effect on the ongoing class action or the existing preliminary injunction against HHS,” Phillips said in an email.

“If I were a police officer, I guess I would tell the public gathered: ‘move on, there is nothing to see here,’” Phillips added.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec on the other hand found Monday’s ruling notable.

“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to set aside a lower court decision that allowed for an unaccompanied minor to receive an abortion while in federal custody,” Kupec said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that the federal government is not required to facilitate abortions for minors and may choose policies favoring life over abortion. We look forward to continuing to press the government’s interest in the sanctity of life.”

In its ruling, the Supreme Court noted that it would leave unresolved an allegation from the government that the American Civili Liberties Union made “what appear to be material misrepresentations and omissions” that were “designed to thwart this court’s review.”

“The Court need not delve into the factual disputes raised by the parties in order to answer the Munsingwear question here,” the ruling says.

Attorneys for Doe called the allegation “baseless” previously, and the ACLU applauded rejection of the government’s demand for sanctions.

“We are gratified that the court rejected this extraordinary request,” David Cole, national legal director of the ACLU, said in a statement. “In protecting a woman’s access to abortion, the lower courts did what they are supposed to do. And the ACLU did what lawyers are supposed to do, namely, pursue the best interests of our clients.”

Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, meanwhile the emphasized the narrowness of Monday’s holding.

“Today’s decision doesn’t affect our ongoing efforts to ensure that all Janes can get an abortion if they need one,” Amiri said in a statement. “The district court has blocked the Trump administration’s cruel policy of obstructing unaccompanied immigrant minors’ access to abortion while the case continues, and we won’t stop until we strike it down once and for all.”

Amiri also emphasized that a separate decision by the trial court to certify a class of pregnant immigrant minors remains unaffected.

“In the time since we succeeded in stopping the Trump administration from blocking Jane Doe’s abortion, at least three more young women have come forward who were being barred from getting abortions,” Amiri said. “To the Janes out there, we’ll keep fighting for you. To the government, we’ll continue to see you in court.”

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