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Judge declares government must allow two teenage illegal immigrants to get abortions

Two 17-year-old immigrants who entered the United States illegally must be permitted to undergo abortion procedures, a federal judge ruled. The girls are in United States custody, and currently being held in government-run shelters. (2015 file photo/Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Two teenage immigrants who entered the United States illegally must be permitted to undergo abortion procedures, a federal judge ruled Monday.

What happened?

According to the New York Times, the 17-year-olds — referred to in court documents as Jane Roe and Jane Poe — are both pregnant and are in United States custody, currently being held in government-run shelters.

A policy announced in March by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement said that federally funded shelters cannot take “any action that facilitates” an abortion procedure for an unaccompanied minor in the United States without approval by the office’s director.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits on behalf of the teenagers, arguing they had a right to an abortion.

Department officials argued in court documents that the teenagers could obtain an abortion by returning to their respective countries or by seeking an American sponsor.

In an order Monday, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan wrote: “If defendants are not immediately restrained from prohibiting shelter staff from transporting J.R. and J.P. to abortion facilities or otherwise interfering with or obstructing their access to an abortion … J.R. and J.P. will both suffer irreparable injury in the form of, at a minimum, increased risk to their health, and perhaps the permanent inability to obtain a desired abortion to which they are legally entitled.”

The Times reported that Roe’s pregnancy is too far advanced for a medication abortion, so she will undergo a surgical one. Poe’s pregnancy is in “the late second trimester,” approaching the legal limit in the state in which she is being held.

A spokesperson for the Administration for Children and Families said in a statement to the Times that it was “deeply disappointed in the decision to grant a temporary restraining order that will compel H.H.S. to facilitate abortions for minors when they are not medically necessary.”

“H.H.S.-funded facilities that provide temporary shelter and care for unaccompanied alien minors should not become way stations for these children to get taxpayer-facilitated abortions,” the statement said.

The Times reported that Chutkan, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, wrote in her order that the abortions would be paid for with private funds, not taxpayer dollars, and accused the government of trying to claim “ultimate authority to unilaterally veto the reproductive choices of the unaccompanied minors in its custody.”

The report noted that the case is similar to that of another teenager in the country illegally who underwent an abortion in October after a judge ruled in her favor.

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