AUSTIN, Texas — 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. 20, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to order the federal government to allow the pregnant teenager under federal custody to get an abortion. Instead, the court gave the Department of Health and Human Services until Oct. 31 to find a sponsor to take custody of the teenager.
Two days earlier, a federal judge had ruled that the teenager had the right to get an abortion, but the case had moved to a federal appeals court since the Trump administration argued that the government is not obligated to facilitate an abortion for someone in the country without legal documents.
Lawyers for the ACLU, which represents the teen known as Jane Doe, said they were disappointed with the appeals court ruling, adding that finding a sponsor is often a lengthy process that involves extensive vetting. They have filed a class-action lawsuit arguing that the government’s policy against allowing abortions for women in its custody is unconstitutional.
“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 an Oct. 20 statement released by the Texas Catholic Conference in Austin, they said that if the judge’s Oct. 18 ruling was left in place, it would “require the government to facilitate and participate in ending the innocent life of the unborn child, diminishing the historic promise of our nation to serve as a beacon of hope for all.”
The 17-year-old from Central America 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.
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 argues 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.
Attorneys general from nine states, including Texas, Missouri and Ohio, have backed the federal government in its appeal, stating in a court filing: there is no “constitutional right to abortion on demand.”