Jane Doe Wants an Abortion but the Government Is Hell Bent on Stopping Her

UPDATE (10/23/2017): Late Friday, a panel of the D.C. Circuit issued an order that sidestepped the serious constitutional questions in the Jane Doe case and allowed the government to further delay her ability to obtain an abortion. Sunday evening, the ACLU filed an emergency petition for en banc review, which asks all of the judges on the D.C. Circuit Court to review the panel’s order. We now await the panel’s decision.

After Jane Doe, a 17-year-old immigrant from Central America, found out she was pregnant last month, she decided to have an abortion. But the Office of Refugee Resettlement —  the federal government agency charged with caring for unaccompanied immigrant minors once they enter the country —  is prohibiting her from getting one.

The federal government has a new policy that allows it to veto an unaccompanied minors’ abortion decision, and government officials are doing everything imaginable to prevent Ms. Doe from accessing abortion. They have instructed the shelter where Jane Doe is staying not to transport Ms. Doe or allow Ms. Doe’s court-appointed guardian to transport her to the health care center to have an abortion —  essentially holding her hostage.

The new policy is the creation of E. Scott Lloyd, the man President Trump appointed in March 2017 to head ORR. Prior to becoming head of ORR, he was senior policy coordinator for the Knights of Columbus, an anti-abortion Catholic charity. In law school, he assisted the parents of Terri Schiavo, a woman in a vegetative state, in a legal battle to prevent her husband and guardian from removing her feeding tube. In 2010, he founded a law firm, Legal Works Apostolate, which specialized in providing counsel “informed by the particular concerns of families and institutions that must navigate the ‘thickets of the law’ while remaining faithful to Church teaching.”

Rather than allowing Ms. Doe to access a legal procedure that she wants, ORR forced her to go for counseling at a religious, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center, where she was forced to have a sonogram.

Ms. Doe has never wavered in her decision to have an abortion. Texas law requires minors to have either parental consent or permission from a judge before having an abortion. Ms. Doe went to court and got a judicial permission to have the abortion. The Texas court appointed a guardian and an attorney to look after her best interests. She informed both of them that she decided to have an abortion and made an appointment to get one.

Although the guardian and the attorney are willing to provide transport and have secured financing for the abortion,  the government has refused to temporarily release her from custody or transport her themselves, insisting that either would be tantamount to “facilitating abortion.”

On October 18, we went to court seeking an order to have Jane Doe released so that she could get the abortion she needs. The government argued that they weren’t holding Ms. Doe hostage because she could just agree to be deported to her home country.

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan appeared incredulous at the government argument.

“I am astounded by that position. I have to tell you, I'm astounded that the government is going to make this 17-year-old girl who has received judicial authorization for a medical procedure to which she is constitutionally authorized choose between a pregnancy that she does not want to go forward with to term or returning to the country from which she left. Those are her options. And is it your position that that does not constitute a substantial obstacle? She can leave the country or she cannot get her abortion, those are her options?”

Judge Chutkan promptly ordered the government to release Ms. Doe to her state-appointed guardian so that she could get the abortion.

Ms. Doe had her first of two necessary appointments to get her abortion on October 19, and she was scheduled to get the abortion October 20. However, the government appealed the circuit court’s decision and requested an immediate administrative stay to prevent Jane Doe from getting an elective abortion that would be “irreversible.”

The appellate court granted the request, so we will be back in court on Friday at 10 a.m. to once again argue on behalf of Ms. Doe, so she can get the care to which she is constitutionally entitled — if only the government would step out of her way.

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Too bad Richard Spenser wasn't aborted.

Rebecca Erwin-S...

I am 39, thankfully, I was born to my mother in 1977, When she discovered she was pregnant for me, she was a ward of the Great State of Mississippi, and living in a foster home, The Department of Child Welfare Services, tried to force my mother 15 at the time to have an abortion. Her guardian, helped her get emancipation from the state so she could marry my father and have her baby. Times change I guess. Those Good ol' Boys back then wanted me, an All American Girl, dead, but want to save the life of this foreigners child, unwanted by even the mother. I'm for everyone making there own choices citizen or not,


Hey, thanks for sharing your story. It's all about enabling women to make our own choices. That's what this whole argument is about- fundamentally we deserve equal rights and equal opportunity. It's not about if you are for or against abortions- it's about women's rights- are you for or against her making her own decisions.


Since when did the right to an abortion mean that someone else has to pay for it. I'll tell you when. The Obama era


*You’re* not being asked to pay for it. She has a sponsor. Next ignorant comment?


Agree with you Brent 100%


What you're paying for is the legal battle which is much more money than the abortion which JD has funding and transportation for.


I would be worried of the Office of Refugee Resettlement doing all they can to not honor the court's decision, and stall this case at every chance they get – with their goal being to make Jane Doe wait until the 20 week mark when she no longer has the option of ending her pregnancy.

Wouldn't it be legal for her to be released if she had a sponsor? I would assume that there are local Indivisible, #Resistance, and pro-choice advocacy groups willing to help by sponsoring her – and other girls in the same situation.
Or couldn't she be given one of the 'at-home abortive / miscarriage medications (like RU486 if legal in Texas)?

Thank you ACLU for taking on cases like this and helping people fight for their personal freedoms!

It's amazing how the most anti-immigration and non-refugee-friendly administration will basically hold a girl hostage so she won't abort a fetus that this government is more likely to deport than give healthcare and support to raise.
Too bad this 9 month old administration can't be terminated!


How do I reach out to the lawyers in this case? I am in Massachusetts and am willing to sponsor this "Jane Doe". I speak fluent Spanish and could house her.


I see that a lot of people are willing to sponsor this young woman. Does she has a sponsor? Where can a person who is interested in being a sponsor get information?


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