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Court Puts A Hold On Order That Approved Undocumented Teen's Abortion

A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked a judge's ruling that would have allowed a detained teenager who is in the U.S. illegally to have an abortion, in the latest twist in a legal battle between the ACLU and the Trump administration.

The pregnant 17-year-old "is currently in a detention center in Brownsville, [Texas], after trying to enter the United States illegally from Mexico," as Houston Public Media has reported.

The minor, who is being referred to as Jane Doe to protect her privacy, has obtained a judge's permission to have an abortion. But the Department of Health and Human Services, which is holding her through its Office of Refugee Resettlement, has refused to allow her to leave so she can visit a clinic.

The case will return to court on Friday, when oral arguments will be heard at 10 a.m. ET.

In court filings, Jane Doe says that government agencies "forced me to obtain counseling from a religiously affiliated crisis pregnancy center where I was forced to look at the sonogram."

Federal and state officials have said that because of the young woman's immigration status, she has no inherent right to an elective abortion in the U.S.

The American Civil Liberties Union's legal director in Texas, Andre Segura, says via Twitter that the case stems from "extremists" who have joined the federal government and want to "impose personal religious beliefs on others."

In issuing an administrative stay on Thursday, three circuit judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia said the court will use the delay to consider whether to grant the Trump administration's emergency motion for a stay. The judges added that the temporary stay "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion."

The stay comes one day after District Judge Tanya Chutkan "ordered the government to transport the teenager, or allow her guardian to transport her, to have the procedure 'promptly and without delay,' " as NPR's Richard Gonzales reportedon Wednesday.

Citing the judge's order, Richard added, "The fact that HHS officials had sent the young woman to abortion counseling against her will but were unwilling to comply with her desire for an abortion apparently irked Judge Chutkan."

Court documents about the case include a sworn declaration by Jane Doe, in which she describes her circumstances.

"I came to the United States from my home country without my parents," the young woman says. "I am 17 years old. ... I was detained upon arrival, and am currently in a shelter in Texas. ... I am pregnant. I have decided to have an abortion."

Listing numbered points, the declaration's second half reads:

"12. I am hopeful to obtain an abortion as soon as possible. I understand the next counseling appointment should have been October 12, with the abortion appointment on October 13. However, because I keep being delayed, the only appointments available to me are on October 18 and 19, 2017. 13. Defendants have forced me to obtain counseling from a religiously affiliated crisis pregnancy center where I was forced to look at the sonogram. 14. Defendants have been talking to me about my pregnancy – I feel like they are trying to coerce me to carry my pregnancy to term. 15. Defendants told my mother about my pregnancy and are trying to force me to tell her as well. 16. I do not want to be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against my will.17. I do not want to proceed in court using my real name because I fear retaliation because I am seeking an abortion. I do not want my family to know that I am seeking an abortion. 18. I agree to be a class representative for similarly situated individuals."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.