Justice Department accuses ACLU of lying about abortion for illegal immigrant teen

(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)Pro-choice protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 2, 2016.

The Justice Department has the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of lying about the abortion schedule of an illegal immigrant teenager, who was involved in a highly publicized court battle last month after the U.S. government tried to prevent her from obtaining the procedure.

The undocumented teen, identified only as Jane Doe, had obtained the abortion on Oct. 25, barely a day after a federal court ruled that the government must allow the procedure to take place. Last week, the DOJ said that the ACLU, which represented the teen, had lied to government lawyers about when the teen's abortion would be performed.

"After informing Justice Department attorneys that the procedure would occur on October 26th, Jane Doe's attorneys scheduled the abortion for the early morning hours of October 25th, thereby thwarting Supreme Court review," said Devin M. O'Malley, a Justice Department spokesman, according to The New York Times.

"In light of that, the Justice Department believes the judgment under review should be vacated, and discipline may be warranted against Jane Doe's attorneys," he added.

David Cole, the ACLU's legal director, said that the accusations were baseless, and contended that the government had subjected Doe to "illegal obstruction, coercion and shaming" while she waited to obtain an abortion.

"Our lawyers acted in the best interest of our client and in full compliance with the court orders and federal and Texas law. That government lawyers failed to seek judicial review quickly enough is their fault, not ours," Cole said.

A brief filed by the DOJ had indicated that the government planned to seek an emergency stay from the U.S. Supreme Court before Doe could obtain the abortion. Lawyers for the ACLU had initially stated that the procedure will be performed on Oct. 26, and on that understanding, the DOJ stated in the brief that it planned to file the emergency application in the high court on Oct. 25.

Texas law mandates that women must undergo a counseling session at least 24 hours before having an abortion with the doctor who will perform the procedure.

Doe had attended a session on Oct. 19, but the doctor she consulted was thought to be initially unavailable to perform an abortion.

The ACLU had reportedly stated in court that Doe would need a new counseling appointment before getting the abortion. But it turned out that the original doctor was available, and the teenager went ahead with the procedure early in the morning on Oct. 25.

In its brief filed on Friday, the Justice Department asked the high court to vacate the lower court ruling to eliminate it as a precedent, and also urged the justices to consider punishing the ACLU's lawyers.

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