SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge Wednesday declined to make the federal government stop blocking a detained 17-year-old immigrant from getting an abortion, despite finding “no justification” for restricting her rights.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler rejected the ACLU’s request for a restraining order as moot, finding the claims of an unaccompanied immigrant minor at a shelter in Texas were too unrelated to the lawsuit already filed in Beeler’s court.
The ACLU sued the federal government in June 2016, challenging its funding of faith-based groups that care for unaccompanied immigrant minors but deny them access to birth control and abortions.
On Oct. 5, the ACLU asked to add new claims to its lawsuit, challenging a Trump administration policy issued in March that prevents shelters from taking any steps to facilitate immigrant minors’ access to abortion without approval from the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The ACLU also sought a temporary restraining order to make the government stop blocking Jane Doe, the 17-year-old immigrant in Texas, from leaving her federally funded shelter to obtain pre-abortion counseling, as required by state law, before she can receive an abortion. It is not a religious shelter.
In a 13-page ruling Wednesday, Beeler said the government “cannot justify actively preventing a woman from getting an abortion,” but refused to grant a restraining order, finding Doe’s claims too unrelated to the case in Beeler’s court.
ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri responded in a statement: “Today’s District Court ruling comes as a serious disappointment, because it delays Jane Doe’s abortion even further. Although the court found it couldn’t hear the case, it was careful to explain that the government has no business blocking Jane Doe’s abortion.”
During the Wednesday hearing, Amiri argued that Doe’s claims were closely related to the original case because both involve the government’s direct or indirect actions — through its new policy and its grants to religious groups — to restrict unaccompanied immigrant minors’ access to abortion.
Amiri said that judicial efficiency weighed in favor of letting the ACLU add new claims and new class representatives to its case in the Northern District of California.
But Beeler found the new claims “form a substantially different case that does not have common questions of law and fact” with the original claim, which alleged violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
“When the claims are different, there is limited efficiency to adjudicating all claims here, even if there may be some overlap in evidence and witnesses,” Beeler wrote.
Beeler noted had she found it appropriate to let the ACLU amend its complaint, she would have granted a restraining order to make the federal government stop blocking Doe from being transported to a facility where she can receive counseling and get an abortion.
To comply with a Texas law that requires parental consent or a judicial waiver for minors to get abortions, Doe went to court with her attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem to get permission to seek an abortion without parental consent, according to the ACLU’s motion for a temporary restraining order.
Despite having obtained that authorization, the federal government refused to transport her or let anyone else transport her to a facility where she could get required pre-abortion counseling, forcing her to miss two appointments, according to the ACLU.
The ACLU says federal agents made Doe visit an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center, where she was forced to undergo an ultrasound “for no medical purpose,” and “reveal intimate details about herself.”
Federal agents also told Doe’s mother she is pregnant and seeking an abortion, despite Doe’s objections. The ACLU says those actions violate Doe’s Fifth Amendment right to privacy and liberty and her First Amendment right to be free from compelled speech (by being forced to discuss her decision to have an abortion with a crisis pregnancy center).
A spokesperson for the Administration for Children and Families, which runs the Office of Refugee Resettlement, said in an email Wednesday that the agency’s goal is “to provide food, shelter and care” to any child who enters the United States without a parent or guardian.
“In this specific case, we are providing excellent care to the adolescent girl and her unborn child, who remain under our care until the mother’s release,” the spokesperson said.
Amiri, of the ACLU, said her organization will continue pursuing “all avenues to get justice for Jane Doe and young women like her.”