On Friday morning, a federal appeals court in Washington DC ordered the Trump administration to find a sponsor for a pregnant 17-year-old undocumented immigrant in federal custody so that she can access an abortion without government facilitation. For weeks, the Trump administration has been desperately trying to obstruct her judicially approved abortion.
The girl, named Jane Doe in court documents, was apprehended while crossing the border in September and a medical exam soon discovered she was pregnant. She was immediately adamant that she needed an abortion.
Doe received financial and legal assistance from Jane’s Due Process, a non-profit in Texas that assists pregnant minors. They raised all of the money necessary for the procedure, and a Texas state judge approved the girl for an abortion, in compliance with the judicial bypass requirement under Texas law for all minors who do not have parental permission.
When the girl tried to leave for her first appointment, a state mandated counseling session 24 hours prior to the procedure, federal officials stepped in and instead took her to a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Additionally, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) informed Doe’s parents of her pregnancy without her consent, a secret she wanted to keep because of the physical abuse suffered by her sister after their parents discovered her pregnancy.
Since then, the federal government has blocked her from leaving the detention facility, barred her from physical activity and is keeping her under constant supervision.
On Wednesday last week, a federal district judge ordered the government to allow Doe to obtain an abortion by Saturday. Attorney General Jeff Sessions immediately filed an appeal. On Thursday, the appeals court ordered the government to allow her to go to her mandatory pre-abortion counseling session, and on Friday they ruled that the government has until October 31 to find her a sponsor so that she can be released into their custody and access her abortion.
If they cannot find her a sponsor by then, then the lower court ruling is upheld and the teen must be permitted to move forward with the abortion in federal custody. She is currently more than 15 weeks pregnant, and the state of Texas, where she is being held, bans abortion after 20 weeks.
The government argued that because she crossed the border illegally, Doe has no right to be in the United States and therefore it is not a violation of her rights to force her to go back to her home country if she wants an abortion. Abortion is illegal in the teen’s home country.
The Trump administration is reportedly blocking all unaccompanied minors in their custody from accessing abortion care, and facilities are being directed not to let minors seek out judicial bypass or even speak with lawyers. The Trump appointed head of ORR, E. Scott Lloyd, has almost no experience with refugees but an extensive background in anti-abortion and anti-contraception activism. Lloyd has also advocated for forcing poor women who have healthcare through government programs to forfeit all right to access an abortion with their own funds. Lloyd has also been personally intimidating pregnant girls in his custody out of having abortions.
An estimated 60 percent of female migrants have been victims of raped. At any one time there are between several hundred and a thousand unaccompanied pregnant minors in US custody.
Media Resources: Los Angeles Times 10/19/17; TribTalk 10/20/17; ABC News 10/20/17; New York Times 10/20/17