An advocate for a 17-year-old Central American girl who entered this country illegally said that by delaying an abortion for the girl, federal agencies and an appellate court have forced her to obtain a more invasive, lengthier and expensive procedure, if she can get an abortion at all.
“Every day she is forced to stay pregnant is an eternity for this Jane,” Austin attorney Susan Hays said in a statement.
Hays, legal director for Jane’s Due Process, said the girl obtained a judicial bypass allowing her to have an abortion without parental consent on Sept. 25 but is now more than 15 weeks pregnant.
Jane’s Due Process has been working with the American Civil Liberties Union and a court-appointed guardian ad litem and an attorney ad litem to help the girl. According to a news release issued by the organization, national and local abortion funds have offered to pay for the procedure, which now costs more than $1,000.
A spokeswoman at Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas said the cost for an abortion for a pregnancy of 10 weeks or less is $650.
Delays continue for the 17-year-old in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a South Texas shelter.
On Oct. 20, in a 2-to-1 decision in Garza v. Hargan, et al., the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gave HHS until 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Oct. 31 to secure a sponsor for the girl to whom she could be released. Hays said the ACLU filed a motion for a rehearing en banc of Garza on Oct. 22, and the court requested a response from the government.
The government has argued in Garza that it is simply declining to facilitate an abortion.
The majority in Garza stated in its ruling, “The Government argues that, pursuant to standard HHS policy, a sponsor may be secured for a minor unlawful in HHS custody, including for a minor who is seeking an abortion. The Government argues that this process — by which a minor is released from HHS custody to a sponsor — does not unduly burden the minor’s right under Supreme Court to an abortion. We agree, so long as the process of securing a sponsor to whom the minor is released occurs expeditiously.”
When asked in an email what is being done to find the girl a sponsor, the Administration for Children and Families at HHS responded: “For however much time we are given, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and HHS will protect the well-being of this minor and all children and babies in our facilities, and we will defend human dignity for all in our care.”
Courtney Cahill, a professor at Florida State University College of Law, described the Garza majority’s decision as a compromise ruling. Two judges on the panel seem reluctant to cast what is happening in the girl’s case as an undue burden and did not address the argument that HHS’s refusal to hand her over so she can have an abortion is an undue burden, said Cahill, who focuses on matters where family law and constitutional law intersect.
Cahill said the majority has taken the position that allowing the girl to have an abortion is assisting her. The idea of what complicity is and what facilitating is is being stretched, she said.
“I’ve never seen the government make this argument in the abortion context,” Cahill said.