An appeals court has blocked a teenage illegal immigrant from demanding abortion services from the federal government while being held in custody.
The Friday ruling does allow the girl, a 17-year-old being held in Texas, to seek a private sponsor who could help her obtain the procedure without the government's assistance.
The government has until October 31 to approve such a sponsor, the 2-1 ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The teen, who is from Central America and is 15 weeks pregnant, entered the country unaccompanied in September and was immediately detained by the federal government and placed in a shelter.
Activists demonstrate in support of a pregnant illegal immigrant 17-year-old being held in a Texas facility for to obtain an abortion, in Washington DC on Friday
The teen has already received a state court order permitting her to have the abortion, but federal officials have refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others can take her to have the procedure.
The Department of Health and Human Services argued to the appeals court that the department had a policy of 'refusing to facilitate abortions' except in 'very limited circumstances.'
It said the teen could instead ask to be returned to her country of origin, as it generally allows minors in the department's custody to request a voluntary departure from the US.
But a government lawyer acknowledged that abortion is illegal in the teen's home country, which was not disclosed to protect her identity.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of the teen, arguing that the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement was improperly preventing her from having the abortion and instead taking her to a crisis pregnancy center. Such centers seek to persuade women not to have abortions.
The state of Texas generally does not permit abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy, adding an element of urgency to the proceedings.
The teen crossed the border (seen in a file photo) in September and was immediately detained
Brigitte Amiri, a lawyer for the ACLU, accused the government of having 'no shame and no regard for a woman's health.'
'Her decision has been disregarded and she's now been dragged into a protracted legal battle over her ability to get the care she needs,' Amiri said in a statement.
The girl sought and received a Texas court order to approve the abortion because she is under 18, and has scheduled a sonogram and consultation with a physician, as required by state law.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement, an office of HHS, refused to let her leave the detention center to carry out those steps.
The ACLU said in a court filing that the Office of Refugee Resettlement revised its procedures in March to mandate that abortions for under-age detainees required office approval.
One of the judges in the majority, Brett Kavanaugh, (pictured) is considered a possible contender for a seat on the Supreme Court if Trump has a future vacancy to fill
The policy change came weeks after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, a Republican who campaigned on promises to clamp down on illegal immigration and seek new restrictions on women's access to abortions.
Friday's ruling said that if the teen could not find a sponsor to provide the abortion by the October 31 deadline, she could renew her legal claim.
The three-judge panel was comprised of two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee, Patricia Millett, who was the sole dissenter.
One of the judges in the majority, Brett Kavanaugh, is considered a possible contender for a seat on the Supreme Court if Trump has a future vacancy to fill.