Reproductive rights advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief on Tuesday when a full federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. overturned a decision by a three-judge panel and ruled that Trump administration officials may not prevent a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant in federal custody from aborting her pregnancy.
The recent series of court battles over attempts by Jane Doe, as the teenager is being called, to get an abortion while being held at a “government-funded shelter in Texas” brought to light a broader policy by the Trump administration’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) that effectively bans the procedure for minors in federal custody.
Last Friday, a three-judge panel had denied demands from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—which is representing Jane Doe—to uphold a lower court’s ruling to require the government to allow the abortion, and gave officials until Oct. 31 to find a sponsor for the 17-year-old, such as a family member living in the country, so Jane could have the procedure after leaving the shelter.
The ACLU appealed that 2-1 decision, and on Sunday requested input from a full bench appeals court, which ruled Tuesday that the district court should update its timeline from the initial ruling in favor of Jane and the ACLU, as the dates have since passed.
Those who have advocated for the teenager celebrated the latest decision, with many praising the concurring opinion penned by Judge Patricia Millett, who wrote: “today’s decision rights a grave constitutional wrong by the government.”
In her detailed rebuke of the federal government’s arguments, Millett also wrote, “the government bulldozed over constitutional lines” when it argued Jane Doe “has the burden of extracting herself from custody if she wants to exercise the right to an abortion that the government does not dispute she has.”
“The court today correctly recognizes that J.D.’s unchallenged right under the Due Process Clause,” Millett concluded, “affords this 17-year-old a modicum of the dignity, sense of self-worth, and control over her own destiny that life seems to have so far denied her.”
Several advocates and rights groups—including Jane’s ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri—praised the ruling on Twitter, often using the hashtag #JusticeForJane:
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