By Aaron Earls
The U.S. Supreme Court stopped a lower court Monday (June 4) from setting a new precedent on illegal immigrant minors’ access to abortion.
The court threw out a federal appeals court ruling that allowed a pregnant illegal immigrant teenager to obtain an abortion while in federal immigration custody, saying the decision was moot because the teen already had the abortion.
The June 4 action prevents the lower court’s decision from setting a new legal precedent for abortion access—but the unsigned opinion with no dissents failed to go as far as the Trump administration wanted.
Justice Department lawyers asked that American Civil Liberties Union lawyers be disciplined for misleading the government in helping the girl have an abortion as the case was being argued through the courts.
The Supreme Court declined to punish the ACLU.
“On the one hand, all attorneys must remain aware of the principle that zealous advocacy does not displace their obligations as officers of the court,” the justices wrote. “On the other hand, lawyers also have ethical obligations to their clients and not all communications breakdowns constitute misconduct.”
The Office of Refugee Resettlement denied a request for access to an abortion from a 17-year-old girl from Central America.
E. Scott Lloyd, the office’s director, said in a December memo explaining his decision that the office “cannot be a place of refuge while we are at the same time a place of violence.”
With her lawyers, the teenager persuaded a Texas judge that she could make the decision on her own with parental permission. The administration refused to facilitate abortions for undocumented minors in federal custody.
A U.S. Court of Appeals panel stopped the process, but the full circuit court ruled in the girl’s favor on October 24.
Texas law requires medical counseling at least 24 hours prior to an abortion by the same physician who performs it.
The Justice Department claimed it had an agreement with the girl’s lawyers that she would be unable to obtain an abortion directly after the ruling. Because of this, they waited in filing their request to the Supreme Court.
However, a doctor who had provided counseling on October 19 made himself available and performed the abortion before the government could file its petition.
The Supreme Court left unresolved the broader question of whether immigrants being held by U.S. authorities have a right to an abortion.
A federal judge issued an injunction March 30 that prevents the Trump administration from hindering detained immigrant minors from seeking an abortion.
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AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.