Undocumented Teen Gets Abortion after Weeks of Court Battles, Alleged Abuse

The ruling allowing Doe to get the abortion does not yet change the federal policy that initially blocked her procedure.

An undocumented teen in federal custody was able to get an abortion Wednesday morning after a monthlong legal battle against the Trump administration, which was blocking her from the procedure.

Jane Doe, as the 17-year-old from Central America is referred to in court filings, was 16 weeks pregnant on Tuesday when an appeals court ordered the feds stop blocking her access to the constitutionally protected procedure. She has been held at a shelter run by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Brownsville area since early September, when staff refused to let her leave to get an abortion despite her having funds, transportation and a Texas court order allowing her to get the procedure without parental consent. The judges on Tuesday deferred to an earlier lower court ruling that ordered Doe be able to get an abortion “promptly and without delay.”

Obtaining an abortion is a victory for Doe and her attorneys, but they say the fight isn’t over yet. The court order Tuesday was on an emergency motion to allow Doe to get an abortion before she runs out of time under Texas’ 20-week ban. But it does not change the federal policy that blocked Doe’s procedure. A pending class-action lawsuit, with Doe as the lead plaintiff, challenges the broader policy, said Susan Hays, the legal director and cofounder of Jane’s Due Process, a state nonprofit that helped Doe secure her court order last month. That litigation was on hold as Doe’s advocates focused on getting her an abortion before it was too late.

“Justice prevailed today for Jane Doe. But make no mistake about it, the Administration’s efforts to interfere in women’s decisions won’t stop with Jane,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, and Doe’s lawyer. “With this case we have seen the astounding lengths this administration will go to block women from abortion care. We will not stop fighting until we have justice for every woman like Jane.”

The new federal policy came from Scott Lloyd, a Trump appointee who took over ORR in March. Lloyd, formerly at the Catholic organization Knights of Columbus, had ordered all shelters under his watch not to “facilitate” abortion in any way without his express permission. According to documents obtained by the ACLU, Lloyd personally visited pregnant minors in ORR shelters to counsel them against having an abortion.

Hays told the Observer that employees at the shelter have abused Jane by denying her access to the abortion, forcing her to call her allegedly abusive parents about her pregnancy and “haranguing her” about her decision.

“People I don’t even know are trying to make me change my mind,”  Doe said in a statement Wednesday. “I made my decision and that is between me and God. Through all of this, I have never changed my mind.”

Sophie is the public health reporting fellow at the Observer. She previously covered health care policy and politics at National Journal in Washington, D.C. You can contact her at [email protected].

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Published at 10:54 am CST
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