Why this 17-year-old undocumented immigrant’s fight for an abortion matters to all of us
After being entangled in an arduous court battle for almost a month, a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant was finally granted the right to receive an elective abortion, something the Trump administration actively tried to prevent. Dubbed Jane Doe by the court to protect her anonymity, the underaged teen reportedly fled her home country to seek refuge in the United States because she was experiencing “horrible physical abuse.” Upon arrival into the U.S., Doe was detained and placed in a government-funded shelter in South Texas. When she discovered she was pregnant, she expressed her desire to terminate, and a Texas judge ruled that she was, in fact, capable of deciding for herself whether to keep the pregnancy, which is a woman’s protected right.
In Texas, women are required to meet with a doctor 24 hours before they go through with an abortion procedure. Jane Doe was accompanied by officials from the shelter to a clinic where she was given counseling and a sonogram in anticipation of an abortion procedure she scheduled for Friday of that same week. But by the end of her appointment, Jane and her legal team learned that the D.C. District Court of Appeals granted the Justice Department a temporary administrative stay on her case.
Despite doing everything right, including obtaining private funds to pay for the procedure, and having court consent, Jane Doe was still denied the right to choose.
Instead of being taken to her appointment, Jane was placed under constant surveillance by shelter staff and given pro-life counseling.
The lawyer who argued on behalf of Jane is Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. In a statement, Amiri made clear she would keep fighting to win her client’s right to an abortion. She said,
“We should all be horrified that the federal government is doing everything imaginable to stop a young woman from getting an abortion. Even from this administration, it is shocking. We are not backing away from this fight. No one should have to go to court to get safe, legal abortion care, and certainly no one should be delayed for weeks in getting the care they need. We’re doing everything in our power to attain swift and certain justice for our client Jane Doe.
At the time, Jane Doe was 15 weeks pregnant in a state that denies abortions beyond 20 weeks.
Some have even accused the Trump administration of trying to “run out the clock,” which would prevent Jane’s abortion all together. A spokesperson for the reproductive rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America said, “This twisted game the Trump administration is playing with this woman’s life is yet another example of their egregious overreach to force her, and women like her, to give birth against their will,” she added.
“It’s clear they’re intentionally running out the clock by personally intervening in this woman’s healthcare at every turn.
If nothing else, this case has highlighted the struggles women who are undocumented have to face when it comes to health care and reproductive rights. And the actions of the Trump administration shows that, in their eyes, immigrants aren’t human; to deny a woman the right to make a medical choice about her own body is inhumane.
The federal government should have no jurisdiction over a woman’s body, and yet here we are.
Accessing reproductive health care is difficult for any woman, let alone an undocumented teenager. The delay Doe faced has likely made her procedure more complex and costly and caused a considerable amount of stress to her physically, mentally, and emotionally.
When asked how she felt after being able to move forward with her procedure, Jane Doe responded:
"I feel good because I want to do it."
Many reproductive rights advocates feel this is a cause for celebration, and it is: a small win for the greater good of a young woman. But we are also reminded of how the most vulnerable among us are being bullied for simply wanting to make decisions about their bodies, their health, and their futures under an administration which provides very little support. We still have so much work to do.