Abortion and Immigration Issues Intersect in Unique Case of Pregnant Teen

October 23, 2017

by Kelvey Vander Hart


A young, pregnant illegal immigrant, referred to only as Jane Doe, is revealing the intersection of disparate political issues.

Doe is 17 years old and was pregnant when she crossed the border in September as an unaccompanied minor. Since crossing, she has been held in an immigration detention center in Texas, and while in detainment, she has been attempting to obtain an abortion.

Doe obtained a court order last month that permitted her to have an abortion while detained. However, federal officials have refused to authorize temporary release or transportation. These officials commented that they “will protect the well-being of this minor and all children and their babies” in their facilities.

Naturally, the case quickly drew national attention, leading to an October 20th hearing of Doe’s case in front of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. This panel was to decide on whether or not the teenager would be released to obtain an abortion while in the care of the shelter.

The panel ruled, two to one, that the federal government has until October 31st to release the girl into the custody of an adult sponsor. If Doe is released by then, she will be able to obtain an abortion on her own. If she is not able to be released by then, the case will go back to court.

Judge Patricia Millett, an Obama appointee and the lone dissenter, wrote that Doe “has already been forced by the government to continue an unwanted pregnancy for almost four weeks, and now, as a result of this order, must continue to carry that pregnancy for multiple more weeks.”

Doe is already 15 weeks pregnant; in Texas, most abortions are prohibited once the mother is 20 weeks pregnant. If the case continues to hang in the balance for a few more weeks, the possibility of receiving an abortion, at least in the state of Texas, could be taken off the table.

Brigitte Amiri is the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing the teenager and argues that Doe is being held ‘hostage’ by the pro-life Trump administration.

“She continues to be held hostage and prevented from getting an abortion because the Trump administration disagrees with her personal decision,” stated Amiri. “Our client and women across this country should be able to access a safe, legal abortion without federal officials stepping in to interfere.”

Although many are pointing fingers at several of Trump’s appointed officials and arguing that this is based simply on policy preference, administration lawyer Catherine Dorsey claimed otherwise. When speaking before the three-judge panel, she pointed out that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (responsible for sheltering illegal unaccompanied minors) has a policy of “refusing to facilitate” abortions.

Because Doe is in their care, allowing her to obtain an abortion would be infringing upon the policy already established. Follow-up care and custody issues become problems as well. The ACLU has sued to overturn this policy, stating that it places an unconstitutional “undue burden” on pregnant women.

Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0


Kelvey Vander Hart is passionate about Jesus, conservatism, fitness, and fantastic coffee; she is also the Associate Editor at Caffeinated Thoughts. She can be followed on Twitter @kovanderhart.

Archive: Kelvey Vander Hart