Supreme Court Sides With Trump in Undocumented Immigrant Abortion Case

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Trump administration in the case of a 17-year-old immigrant's right to an abortion, but the American Civil Liberties Union does not see the ruling as a total loss.

In an unsigned order with no recorded dissent, the highest U.S. court threw out an appeals court ruling that allowed an undocumented teenager held in federal custody, known only as "Jane Doe," to receive an abortion.

The Supreme Court ordered lower courts to disregard the ruling as "moot" because Jane Doe had already undergone the procedure. The court did not, however, make a ruling on the merits of the legal issues presented in the case, writing that the justices did not have to "delve into the factual disputes by the parties in order to answer" the mootness question.

Trump's Department of Justice had asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the ruling and punish ACLU lawyers, who they argued misled them by "sneaking" Doe off to get an abortion at 4:15 a.m., before the government was able to appeal the lower court's decision.

Monday's ruling made clear that the Supreme Court took the government's allegations seriously. "All attorneys must remain aware of the principle that zealous advocacy does not displace their obligations as officers of the court," the ruling said. "Especially in fast-paced, emergency proceedings like those at issue here, it is critical that lawyers and courts alike be able to rely on one another's representations." But ultimately, the Supreme Court decided against imposing sanctions on ACLU lawyers because "lawyers have ethical obligations to their clients and not all communication breakdowns constitute misconduct."

The ACLU is "relieved that the Supreme Court rejected the government's request to punish myself and my colleagues," Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, told Newsweek. "It was baseless and an attempt to intimidate us and punish us for doing our jobs."

Because the ruling was narrow and didn't comment on the underlying legality of abortion access for undocumented immigrants, "this doesn't impact our abilities," said Amiri. "We have other avenues in place, this doesn't affect our preliminary junction, we have an order from the district court blocking the no abortion policy and have a class action suit that protects any unaccompanied minor, today's ruling doesn't block any of that."

Amiri said that multiple "Janes" have come forward requesting access to abortion, and the ACLU will continue to do "everything we can to make sure that future immigrants coming to our country can recieve abortions if needed."

The U.S. government originally banned the teenage girl at the center of the case from leaving the federal facility she was being held in in order to receive pre-abortion counseling and for her procedure appointment. The Department of Justice argued that it shouldn't be required to provide an abortion that is not medically required for someone who had illegally entered the country. A panel of judges in D.C. court ruled that the government was required to make abortion services available to the 17-year-old.

"An injunction remains in place to protect young undocumented women who need access to safe, legal abortion while the case proceeds. But this case should never have been necessary in the first place. The Trump-Pence administration must stop interfering with immigrant women's health care," said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "After risking everything to flee danger in their home country, young undocumented immigrants should be able to access basic health care with dignity — not be met with coercion and cruelty. All women deserve to be treated with respect, and access to health care no matter their immigration status."

The Department of Justice did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

This story has been updated to include commentary from Planned Parenthood.

A mix of anti-abortion advocates and pro-choice advocates rally outside of the Supreme Court last year. Monday's Supreme Court decision regarding abortion access for undocumented immigrants went in favor of the Trump administration. Win McNamee/Getty Images