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Undocumented teen has abortion amid legal battle

Teen's abortion battle
Teen's abortion battle 04:19

The undocumented teen who sought an abortion in the U.S. had her abortion this morning, CBS News' Paula Reid reports. The procedure took place before the Justice Department could appeal Tuesday's decision clearing the way for the teen to have the abortion. 

The 17-year-old, known as "Jane Doe," said in a statement that she had come to the U.S. to make a better life for herself.

"My journey wasn't easy, but I came here with hope in my heart to build a life I can be proud of," she said in a statement released through her guardian. "I dream about studying, becoming a nurse, and one day working with the elderly."

She went on to say that when she was detained, she had been placed in a shelter for children in Texas, where she first learned she was pregnant.

"I knew immediately what was best for me then, as I do now -- that I'm not ready to be a parent," she wrote. The group Jane's Due Process helped present her case to a judge, who gave her permission to end her pregnancy without her parents' consent. Though she was nervous about appearing in court, "I was treated very kindly," she wrote.

The government did not allow her to leave to obtain the abortion and instead forced her to see a doctor who showed her sonograms and tried to convince her not to abort. She was kept in the shelter for a month while she waited for her case to proceed. 

Once the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington ruled in her favor Tuesday, she proceeded with her abortion. 

The court's decision overruled a ruling by a three-judge panel of the court that at least temporarily blocked her from getting an abortion.

Lawyers for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for sheltering children who illegally enter the country unaccompanied by a parent, have said the department has a policy of "refusing to facilitate" abortions and that releasing the teenager would require arranging a transfer of custody and follow-up care.

The teenager's lawyers have said all the government needed to do was "get out of the way." An attorney appointed to represent the teen's interests said she could transport her to and from appointments necessary for the procedure, and the federal government would not have to pay for it.

federal judge sided with the teen and set dates for the procedure last week, but the government appealed. The dispute raises the question of whether illegal immigrant women have the same rights to an abortion -- as established by the Supreme Court -- as U.S. residents. 

The Justice Department had been expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but there will be no further appeals on the case now that the abortion has already taken place.

"Her case, specifically ... has been resolved. The Justice Department can no longer appeal," Reid explained. "Going forward, there are questions about what happens to other girls in her situation under the Trump administration. The ACLU is currently engaged in litigation arguing that the Trump administration is trying to force young, undocumented, unaccompanied minors in federal custody to proceed with their pregnancies." 

Reid noted that some abortion opponents are raising questions about how the Justice Department handled the case. 

"They could have appealed this to the Supreme Court late last night and prevented her from being able to go forward with this procedure," she said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed his "profound disappointment" with the outcome Wednesday, faulting the Justice Department for failing to file an appeal in time.

"Today's loss of innocent human life is tragic," Paxton said in a statement. "And it may have been avoidable. ... This ruling not only cost a life, it could pave the way for anyone outside the United States to unlawfully enter and obtain an abortion."

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