On Wednesday, Jane Doe, an undocumented, unaccompanied minor in federal custody, obtained the abortion that she had been seeking for more than a month. The American Civil Liberties Union confirmed that Doe was able to undergo the procedure on Wednesday morning. There were no complications. Doe will now be returned to her shelter, which is legally obligated to continue providing her with the appropriate health care.
Doe, who is 17, arrived in the United States in early September, illegally and without her parents. She had fled physical abuse in her home country. Doe was promptly placed in a federally funded shelter in Texas, where she discovered that she was pregnant. Although she received judicial bypass to terminate her pregnancy as required under Texas law, the Trump administration refused to let her obtain the procedure. Instead, it sent her to a “crisis pregnancy center” where she was forced to undergo a sonogram and told not to abort.
With the help of the ACLU, Doe filed suit, alleging that the government was violating her constitutional right to abortion access. After several setbacks, she prevailed at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday. The victory arrived just in time: Doe was about 11 weeks pregnant when she requested the abortion, but the government’s delay pushed her into the second trimester, forcing her to undergo a more complicated procedure. She obtained the abortion around her 16th week of pregnancy; Texas bans abortions after 20 weeks. It is not clear whether the Justice Department planned to appeal Tuesday’s decision to the Supreme Court, but obviously it is now too late to make a difference.
The Trump administration can no longer force Doe to continue carrying her unwanted pregnancy. It may, however, attempt to deprive similarly situated women of their right to abortion access. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees shelters for unaccompanied, undocumented minors like Doe, has barred shelters from taking “any action that facilitates” abortion without “direction and approval” from ORR director Scott Lloyd. An anti-abortion activist and Trump appointee, Lloyd has written that “unborn child[ren]” of minors are “in our care,” and directed shelters not to let pregnant minors meet with attorneys to discuss abortion options. The Justice Department has vigorously defended Lloyd’s ability to force undocumented minors to carry unwanted pregnancies. Once another pregnant minor seeks to terminate, the DOJ may be back in court insisting that the Trump administration can deny her access to abortion.
For now, however, reproductive rights advocates are relieved that Doe has succeeded in reasserting control over her body. Through her guardian, she released a statement regarding her ordeal. “My name is not Jane Doe,” she wrote, “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.