LINCOLN — Nebraska joined with several other states last week in arguing that an undocumented immigrant girl has no right to an abortion.
The argument came in a case involving a pregnant 17-year-old who is being held in a federally funded shelter in Texas.
The girl, identified only as Jane Doe, entered the United States illegally and without her parents.
On Oct. 5 the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California went to court alleging that federal officials were blocking the teen from having an abortion.
The ACLU asked a federal judge in California for a temporary restraining order allowing the girl to get an abortion.
On Tuesday, Nebraska joined Texas and five other states (Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina) in a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the federal officials and opposing the ACLU request.
Attorney General Doug Peterson’s office said Nebraska got involved because the case concerns important questions about whether constitutional rights apply to people who enter the country illegally.
The states’ brief, filed by Texas, argues that illegal immigrants are not entitled to the full scope of constitutional rights that apply to citizens.
The states said a ruling that the girl has a right to an abortion would open the door for illegal immigrants to claim other constitutional rights, such as the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
“If, on the facts this case presents, Doe has a right to an abortion, it is difficult to imagine what other constitutional protections she would not enjoy by extension,” they said.
Such a sweeping ruling would incentivize even more people to enter the U.S. illegally, they said.
Late Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler denied the ACLU’s request, ruling that it had been filed in the wrong court.
Peterson’s office said the decision was the right one in the case.
Beeler, however, also said that had the request been properly filed, she would have granted a temporary restraining order allowing the teen to get an abortion.
“The government may not want to facilitate abortion, but it cannot block it,” Beeler said. “It is doing that here. There is no justification for restricting Ms. Doe’s access.”
The judge noted that prisoners are entitled to get abortions. She said that right extends to people being held in immigration detention centers.
According to documents filed by the ACLU, officials allowed the teen at the center of the case to go to court for permission to bypass Texas’ usual parental notification requirements for teens.
But the officials then refused to let her keep appointments for state-mandated pre-abortion counseling or for an abortion the following day.
According to the documents, the officials refused to transport her or to let anyone else transport her to the appointments.
Instead, they forced her to go to a crisis pregnancy center, which does not provide or refer women for abortions. The officials also told the girl’s mother of her pregnancy, over the girl’s objections.
The ACLU had sought to add the Texas teen’s case to an existing lawsuit concerning illegal immigrants’ access to contraception and abortion.
The lawsuit, filed in 2016, concerned religious groups that contract with the federal government to care for illegal immigrant children who arrive without their parents.
The suit claimed that federal officials allowed the groups, particularly the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to deny access to birth control and abortion.
The suit cited one case of a teen, pregnant through rape, who was kicked out of a Catholic-affiliated shelter because she asked for an abortion.
In a second case, another girl pregnant through rape was denied placement in the shelters closest to her family because those shelters objected to caring for teens who seek abortions.