Abortion Debate Centers on Undocumented Teen in Texas

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Source: Jenny Fink, “Judge Sides with ACLU: Orders Trump Admin to Allow Undocumented Immigrant in Shelter to Have Abortion,” ijr.com, Oct. 19, 2017

On Oct. 25, 2017, after weeks of legal fighting, a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant being held in a Texas detention facility was allowed to undergo the abortion she had requested.

The young woman, ‘Jane Doe’ (JD), was detained in September after traveling from Central America to the United States. When JD learned she was pregnant, she requested to have an abortion and was denied by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the federal government agency in charge of caring for unaccompanied minors who have entered the United States illegally. The refusal to allow JD to receive an abortion was based upon a policy implemented by the new director of the ORR, Scott Lloyd, to not facilitate elective abortions for minors.

Under Texas law, minors are required to have parental consent or permission from a judge in order to have an abortion. When JD first requested her abortion, she received permission from a Texas judge to have the procedure, and was appointed a guardian and an attorney. However, although the guardian and attorney secured funding and offered to transport the young woman to receive the abortion, the federal government refused to release her to have the abortion performed.

JD’s legal guardian and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) went to court to challenge the government’s refusal to allow the abortion, and US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered that the government must release the young woman or transport her themselves to receive the abortion. The federal government appealed the decision to the DC Circuit Court. After two hearings, the DC Circuit Court sided with the ACLU and JD. On Wednesday Oct. 25, Jane Doe was released from detention to undergo the abortion.

According to a statement released Oct. 25 by the ACLU, “Unaccompanied immigrant youth from Central America frequently face unthinkable hardships before coming into the care of ORR, making prompt medical attention necessary… In fact, human rights advocates estimate that the rate of women and girls raped on their journey to the United States is between 60 percent and 80 percent… By blocking Jane and others from accessing abortion care, ORR has openly disregarded its legal duty to provide prompt access to safe medical care to those within its charge.”

However, according to Melanie Israel, a Research Associate at the Heritage Foundation, “The Trump administration has rightly attempted to ‘protect the well-being of [J.D.] and all children and babies in our facilities, and we will defend human dignity for all in our care.’… Wednesday’s news is heartbreaking, but it can strengthen the resolve of pro-life Americans to continue striving for the day when every human being, born and unborn, is protected in law and welcomed in life.”


American Civil Liberties Union, “Coalition Letter to ORR on Jane Doe and Abortion Policy,” aclu.org, Oct. 25, 2017

Bill Chappell, “‘Jane Doe’ Immigrant Has Abortion in Texas, after Battle with Trump Administration,” npr.org, Oct. 25, 2017

Antonia Hylton, “EXCLUSIVE: Undocumented teen talks about her abortion battle with Trump’s DOJ,” news.vice.com, Oct. 25, 2017

Melanie Israel, “Federal Judge Forces Government to Facilitate Abortion for Illegal Minor in Texas,” dailysignal.com, Oct. 25, 2017

Sarah McCammon, “Undocumented Teen Held in Texas Is at the Heart of an Abortion Fight,” npr.org, Oct. 13, 2017

Stacy Sullivan, “Jane Doe Wants an Abortion but the Government Is Hell Bent on Stopping Her,” aclu.org, Oct. 19, 2017

Richard Wolf, “Undocumented Teen’s Abortion Re-Energizes Legal Debate,” usatoday.com, Oct. 25, 2017