- A 17-year-old undocumented teen in Texas was allowed to have an abortion on Wednesday after a lengthy legal battle with the Trump administration. Referred to as “Jane Doe” in court documents to protect her privacy, she was 15 weeks pregnant when she had the procedure, five weeks before Texas’ 20-week ban on abortions would have prevented her from getting one. The Trump administration tried to block her from getting an abortion for weeks, arguing it wouldn’t “facilitate” the procedure for an unaccompanied minor. An appeals court disagreed.
Following weeks of court battles, an undocumented 17-year-old, known in court filings as Jane Doe, was finally allowed to get an abortion on Wednesday.
The Trump administration was trying to prevent her from choosing to get the procedure, but an appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Doe was constitutionally granted the right.
“I’m a 17-year-old girl that came to this country to make a better life for myself. My journey wasn’t easy, but I came here with hope in my heart to build a life I can be proud of,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “This is my life, my decision. I want a better future. I want justice.”
In September, Doe was detained at a center for children after she entered the US illegally from Central America. The country of her origin and her real name haven’t been released in order to protect her privacy because she is a minor.
At the detention center, she learned that she was pregnant, and decided she wanted to have an abortion. Because she is under 18, and her parents aren’t in the US, she had to have a Texas court rule that she could have the procedure since state law prohibits minors from making that decision without parental consent. That judge ruled that she could have the abortion.
Then, the Trump administration made Doe see a doctor who tried to convince her not to get an abortion and showed her an ultrasound of the fetus, another requirement under Texas law. The government would not let Doe leave the detention center to get an abortion, which her attorneys labeled as “holding her hostage.”
The detention center even had Doe call her physically abusive mother in her home country to tell her that she was pregnant, one of her lawyers told The New York Times.
A lengthy court battle
The American Civil Liberties Union stepped in to sue the government on Doe’s behalf so that she could get the procedure.
A federal judge in ruled on October 18 that Doe had the right to access abortion services and should be taken to her appointments “promptly and without delay.”
But on October 20, a three-judge panel for the US District Court of Appeals in DC issued an order ruling that Doe was not immediately allowed to have the abortion, and that the federal government had until October 31 to find a sponsor to take her to get the procedure.
Texas law bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is endangered. At this point, Doe was 15 weeks pregnant – time was running out.
On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled in a 6-3 decision without oral argument that Doe was allowed to get her abortion immediately.
“Today’s decision rights a grave constitutional wrong by the government,” Judge Patricia Millett wrote in a concurring opinion. “Remember, we are talking about a child here. A child who is alone in a foreign land. A child who, after her arrival here in a search for safety and after the government took her into custody, learned that she is pregnant.”
Early Wednesday morning, Doe had her abortion, the ACLU announced.
Throughout the court proceedings, the Trump administration argued that Doe should not be allowed to have the abortion, because it was an “undue burden” for the government, and that officials were not blocking her from getting one because she could return to her home country anytime. But abortion is illegal in her country.
Scott Lloyd, director of the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, sent an email in March directing government detention not to let minors access abortion services, but instead take them to “life-affirming options counseling” or pregnancy care, according to The Washington Post.
“Make no mistake, the Trump administration’s efforts to interfere in women’s decisions won’t stop with Jane Doe,” the ACLU said in a tweet on Wednesday. “We will not stop fighting until every woman has access to abortion care.”
Below is Jane Doe’s full statement, released after she had the abortion:
My name is not Jane Doe, but I am a Jane Doe.
I’m a 17-year-old girl that came to this country to make a better life for myself. My journey wasn’t easy, but I came here with hope in my heart to build a life I can be proud of. I dream about studying, becoming a nurse, and one day working with the elderly.
When I was detained, I was placed in a shelter for children. It was there that I was told I was pregnant. I knew immediately what was best for me then, as I do now – that I’m not ready to be a parent. Thanks to my lawyers, Rochelle Garza and Christine Cortez, and with the help of Jane’s Due Process, I went before a judge and was given permission to end my pregnancy without my parents’ consent. I was nervous about appearing in court, but I was treated very kindly. I am grateful that the judge agreed with my decision and granted the bypass.
While the government provides for most of my needs at the shelter, they have not allowed me to leave to get an abortion. Instead, they made me see a doctor that tried to convince me not to abort and to look at sonograms. People I don’t even know are trying to make me change my mind. I made my decision and that is between me and God. Through all of this, I have never changed my mind.
No one should be shamed for making the right decision for themselves. I would not tell any other girl in my situation what they should do. That decision is hers and hers alone.
I’ve been waiting for more than a month since I made my decision. It has been very difficult to wait in the shelter for news that the judges in Washington, D.C. have given me permission to proceed with my decision. I am grateful for this, and I ask that the government accept it. Please stop delaying my decision any longer.
My lawyers have told me that people around the country have been calling and writing to show support for me. I am touched by this show of love from people I may never know and from a country I am just beginning to know – to all of you, thank you.
This is my life, my decision. I want a better future. I want justice.