The Trump Administration on Tuesday night voluntarily withdrew its plea to a federal appeals court to prevent a young immigrant woman from being released from detention to have an abortion. It did so after the government released her from custody, thus apparently giving her freedom to go ahead with an abortion if she still wishes to have the procedure.
The high-profile controversy, the second test in recent weeks of the new Administration’s policy against “facilitating” any abortion for undocumented young women held in detention centers, could end quickly if the motion to dismiss is accepted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
In notifying that court that the young woman, identified in court papers only as “Jane Roe,” has been given her freedom, Administration lawyers did not answer a special question that the appeals court had posed: “specifically whether and precisely when…she will be permitted to obtain an abortion.”
The one-page filing in response said only that she had been released “on her own recognizance” by federal immigration officials. That phrase was not defined, but presumably it meant that, as an immigrant who entered the U.S. illegally several weeks ago, she will still have some obligation to keep officials apprised of where she is but otherwise is not under direct and continuing control by immigration agencies.
Earlier in the day, the appeals court was told by Administration lawyers that they had learned that “Jane Roe” is 19 years old, not 17 years old as she had claimed (and apparently continues to claim). If she is an adult, she would have the freedom to make her own decision about terminating her pregnancy; she is now in about the tenth week. Once having made the discovery it says it made about her age, the Administration said it would be ending its challenge to her release from detention for purposes of having an abortion.
The Administration, besides filing that challenge in the D.C. Circuit Court, had also filed a similar challenge in the Supreme Court. Presumably, in the wake of its move in the appeals court Tuesday, it will be withdrawing the request at the Supreme Court. As of the close of business Tuesday afternoon, the Justices had taken no action on that request, probably to await developments in the Circuit Court.