A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. on Thursday temporarily halted a judge's order that required the federal government to allow a 17-year-old pregnant immigrant detainee in Texas to get an abortion.
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order that set up a quickly scheduled oral argument session on the case for Friday morning, Politico reported. The panel also put a hold on part of a lower court judge's order that instructed officials to make arrangements for the teen to get an abortion on either Friday or Saturday.
Initially, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan issued an order Wednesday telling federal officials to allow the detainee to receive counseling and the ultrasound test required by Texas law on Thursday, and to permit her to get an abortion procedure later in the week. The order came over the objection of the Trump administration.
Justice Department lawyers, who appealed the lower court's ruling, cited the government's interest in "fetal life and childbirth" as grounds for blocking the order in a motion filed Wednesday night.
The appeals court's decision requires the officials to still allow the counseling, but it lifted the requirement that officials had to allow the abortion.
The girl, identified in court papers only as Jane Doe, obtained a Texas judge's permission on Sept. 25 and had an abortion appointment scheduled for Sept. 28, at the end of her first trimester, according to a lawyer for the detainee.
However, officials at the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, refused to transport her to the abortion appointment. Instead, they took her to a crisis pregnancy center and called her mother in her home country to tell her about the pregnancy.
"The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for stay and should not be constructed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion," the D.C. Circuit order said.
The appeals court's directive draws more attention to what looks like a major policy change by the Trump administration to block underage immigration detainees from accessing abortions, Politico noted.
Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, a pro-life group, condemned Chutkan's initial order on Wednesday.
"Americans United for Life is deeply disappointed that once again, an activist judge has declared abortion ‘access' more important than U.S. law and policy that prohibits federal funding and support of elective abortion," she said.