U.S. News

Justice Department says it was misled by pregnant immigrant teen's lawyers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for a pregnant immigrant teenager, who successfully fought a legal battle to have an abortion, misled the Justice Department over the timing of the procedure, the government alleged in a court filing Friday.

In a petition filed at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Justice Department said it had been about to appeal a lower court decision in the 17-year-old girl’s favor when it emerged on Oct. 25 that she had already had the abortion early that morning. [L2N1N01BN]

The Justice Department said “disciplinary action may therefore be warranted” against the teen’s lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union, who had told the government the girl was scheduled to have the abortion a day later.

The government is asking for the original lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of the girl and other pregnant teens who may be in immigration detention to be thrown out.

By quickly having the abortion, the girl, known in court papers as “Jane Doe,” prevented the administration from potentially continuing the legal fight at the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court.

The ACLU said in a statement that the government was seeking to deflect blame for its failure to appeal in time.

“Our lawyers acted in the best interest of our client and in full compliance with the court orders and federal and Texas law, said the group’s legal director, David Cole.

The case involves the intersection of two divisive social issues on which President Donald Trump has taken a hard line: abortion and immigration. Among the issues the dispute raises is whether illegal immigrant women have the same rights to an abortion as U.S. residents.

The Trump administration argued previously that while the girl from an unidentified country was in federal custody, she was subject to its policy of refusing to facilitate abortions.

The girl entered the United States without any family in September and was immediately detained by U.S. authorities and placed in a shelter in Texas for unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors.

She had sought and received a Texas court order to approve the abortion because she is under 18, and had scheduled a sonogram and consultation with a physician, as required by Texas law. But the Trump administration had refused to let her leave the detention center to carry out those steps.

At the time of the abortion, she was around 15 weeks pregnant. Under Texas law, abortions after 20 weeks are illegal.

Editing by Bernadette Baum