Texas bishops criticize ACLU’s support for teen immigrant’s abortion

Activists with Planned Parenthood demonstrate in support of a pregnant 17-year-old being held in a Texas facility for unaccompanied immigrant children to obtain an abortion, outside of the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. Activists with Planned Parenthood demonstrate in support of a pregnant 17-year-old being held in a Texas facility for unaccompanied immigrant children to obtain an abortion, outside of the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. 

Texas bishops criticized the American Civil Liberties Union for backing an abortion for a teen immigrant in the country illegally and also praised government officials for their defense of the unborn.

On Oct. 24, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a 6-3 vote cleared the way for the pregnant 17-year-old to obtain an abortion, overruling an Oct. 20 decision by a three-judge panel of the court that blocked it at least until the Department of Health and Human Services found a sponsor by Oct. 31 to take custody of the teenager, such as an adult relative. The the teen could obtain the abortion.

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On Oct. 24, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a 6-3 vote cleared the way for the pregnant 17-year-old to obtain an abortion.

The case reached the circuit court when the Trump administration appealed a ruling by a federal judge that the teenager had the right to get an abortion. The administration had argued that the government is not obligated to facilitate an abortion for someone in the country without legal documents.

Attorneys general from nine states, including Texas, Missouri and Ohio, backed federal government in that appeal, stating in a court filing: there is no "constitutional right to abortion on demand." An appeal of the circuit court decision is expected.

Texas bishops: "Federal and Texas state officials are to be commended for defending the life."

"Federal and Texas state officials are to be commended for defending the life of an innocent unborn child in a recent case involving an unaccompanied pregnant minor in federal immigration custody," the Texas Catholic bishops said in their statement.

Lawyers for the ACLU are representing the teen known as Jane Doe, who is from Central America and is under federal custody in a shelter in Brownsville. She entered the United States in September and is in her 15th week of pregnancy. Texas bans most abortions after 20 weeks.

The ACLU argued that under the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, the immigrant teenager is entitled to have an abortion that she would pay for.

In an Oct. 20 statement released by the Texas Catholic Conference in Austin, the state's bishops said argued against requiring "the government to facilitate and participate in ending the innocent life of the unborn child," saying it would diminish "the historic promise of our nation to serve as a beacon of hope for all."

A White House statement said the Trump administration "stands ready to expedite her return to her home country." Federal officials have said the teenager could voluntarily leave the country or find a sponsor in the United States to take custody of her.

The ACLU argued that under the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, the immigrant teenager is entitled to have an abortion that she would pay for.

The Texas bishops said the ACLU's case -- "compelling others to perform, facilitate or pay for abortion who do not wish to do so" -- is unconscionable. "No one -- the government, private individuals or organizations -- should be forced to be complicit in abortion," they said.

They also pointed out that the Catholic Church in Texas has provided assistance and shelter to unaccompanied immigrant minors, refugees and pregnant mothers for decades.

"As this case continues through the legal process, we pray for this young mother and her unborn child, so both may enjoy the protection and refuge the United States offers," the bishops said.

This story includes updates.

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