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Federal appeals court to consider blocking undocumented teen's scheduled abortion

Whether an undocumented Texas teen can get a scheduled abortion Friday remains up in the air ahead of a court hearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals.

A small opening at the base of the border fence in Brownsville is meant to let small, endangered wild cats like the ocelot through. The “cat holes,” which are the size of a piece of printer paper, appear every 500 feet or so.

Whether an undocumented Texas teen can get a scheduled abortion Friday remains up in the air as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has agreed to consider the Trump administration's request to stay a ruling allowing the teen access to abortion services.

The teenager, known in court filings as Jane Doe, completed her pre-abortion counseling appointment required by Texas law on Thursday, according to Susan Hays – legal director of Jane's Due Process, a nonprofit that provides legal representation for pregnant minors in Texas – who is working on the case. That appointment came after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled Wednesday that Doe had the right to access abortion services and that she should be transported to her abortion appointments "promptly and without delay."

The federal government followed in a motion that said "the district court abused its discretion in granting such so-called temporary relief." The attorneys argued that Doe "still has a number of weeks in which she could legally and safely obtain an abortion" and asked for more time for her claim to be adjudicated before the abortion makes the decision irreversible.

Following a hearing scheduled for Friday morning, a three-judge panel will decide if Jane Doe can have the abortion she has requested that afternoon.

The pregnant 17-year-old undocumented immigrant is at the center of a legal dispute over whether unaccompanied immigrant minors have the right to an abortion in the United States.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit that resulted in Wednesday's ruling, the Trump administration is forcing Doe to continue carrying her pregnancy against her will. She is 15 weeks pregnant, and Texas law would only allow her to terminate her pregnancy before 20 weeks.

Doe already has the court authorization required for the procedure itself. Under Texas law, minors need their parents' permission or a court order to get an abortion.

But Doe's legal team claim the shelter where she is staying is under orders from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement not to allow her to leave to get the abortion, and the shelter is refusing to transport the minor. "They are effectively holding her hostage," said ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri in an interview with The Texas Tribune.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a new amicus brief with the D.C. Circuit – his third in the case – in support of "a federal government policy that prevents unaccompanied unlawfully-present minor aliens from having abortions," according to a news release issued by his office Thursday.

"The D.C. Circuit made the right decision to temporarily stay the district court’s order, which contradicts U.S. Supreme Court precedent and harms the public interest because it effectively creates a right to abortion for anyone who entered the U.S. illegally, no matter how briefly,” Attorney General Paxton told the court, according to the release. “Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions.”

Attorneys general of Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Carolina joined Texas in the brief.

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Health care Immigration Abortion