Homenews

Undocumented teenager who obtained abortion: ‘I want a better future’

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An undocumented 17-year-old teenager has obtained the abortion she spent weeks fighting for, defying efforts by the Trump administration to block it.

In an announcement made Wednesday morning, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that the teenager, known as Jane Doe, had undergone an abortion. The procedure occurred shortly after a U.S. appeals court ruled Tuesday that the teenager should be granted an abortion as soon as possible. Officials are currently holding Jane Doe, who was 16 weeks pregnant, in Texas, which bans abortions after 20 weeks. She is also in the Rio Grande Valley, home to only one abortion clinic.

When the teenager initially requested an abortion, she was taken to a crisis pregnancy center, where patients are discouraged from terminating their pregnancies and shown sonograms. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director Scott Lloyd, who activists have described as aggressively anti-choice, did little to help Jane Doe. Susan Hays, the legal director for Jane’s Due Process, an organization advocating for pregnant minors in Texas, told Rewire at the time that ORR was essentially holding Jane Doe “hostage” and dragging out her pregnancy in order to avoid an abortion.

That precarious situation spurred a fast-paced back-and-forth. When an initial emergency order by the ACLU was denied, the organization sought a second emergency order, resulting in success. After the Trump administration appealed and a circuit court issued an administrative stay, a three-judge panel ruled on Friday that the teenager was guaranteed the right to an abortion under the constitution, but that the government was not required to provide one for her and that a sponsor would need to be found. Tuesday’s decision overruled the second part of that conclusion, paving the way for Jane Doe to finally obtain her abortion.

In a statement released through the ACLU, the teenager said that she was grateful the ordeal was over, and that she hopes to turn her attention to achieving her dreams — becoming a nurse and working with elderly patients. She also rebuked the government for its role in drawing out the process.

“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,” she wrote. “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,” she continued, going on to emphasize the importance of individual choice and the toll that the wait has taken on her mental health. “This is my life, my decision. I want a better future. I want justice.”

The Trump administration was considering appealing the decision, according to reports. Now, it’s too late for the government to interfere. But advocates are still decrying the treatment Jane Doe has faced in custody.

The teenager reportedly fled an abusive family in her home country in Central America, where abortion is illegal. Despite the fact that abortion during the first trimester is widely considered far more safe than childbirth, government officials repeatedly sought to pressure Jane Doe to carry her pregnancy to term. (Maternal mortality in Texas is the highest in the developed world.) According to the Texas Observer, staff “harangued” the teenager about her pregnancy, forcing her to call her abusive parents in order to inform them and refusing to allow her to partake in in group excursions and activities.

Jane Doe’s case is hardly an anomaly. According to the ACLU, hundreds of pregnant minors are likely in federal custody. Many are raped on the dangerous journey to the United States only to face significant hurdles seeking care once they cross the U.S. border. Private Catholic agencies pose a particular problem, as many oppose abortion and contraception, viewpoints they impose on the undocumented minors in their care. The ACLU launched a lawsuit in June 2016 saying such groups are endangering the lives of the young people they are meant to protect.

Outside of access to varied reproductive care, undocumented immigrants also face staggering levels of abuse in federal care. Children are especially vulnerable. An AP investigation last year found that U.S. sponsors frequently subject young Central Americans in particular to abuse, including sexual assault and labor trafficking. Many young immigrants experience long-term trauma as a result of their treatment in federal custody.

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