Editorial: ‘Jane Doe’s’ courageous decision

  • Activists with Planned Parenthood demonstrate in support of a pregnant 17-year-old being held in a Texas facility for unaccompanied immigrant children to obtain an abortion, outside of the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington on Oct. 20. AP Photo

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The Trump administration tried very hard this month to make an illegal immigrant have a baby against her will. For an administration that has made clear that neither immigrants nor their children are welcome, the story was a stunning example of self-righteous inhumanity.

The story is about a 17-year-old young woman who had crossed our country’s southern border. That’s nothing new. But what happened to her next — after she was caught and became a minor in the care of our federal government — attracted our attention.

We think that we — we being our nation as led by Donald Trump, our president and a man who has boasted of his female conquests in the crudest possible terms — treated this brave, hopeful young woman in a despicably high-handed and cruel manner.

All indications are it will happen again, to other unaccompanied immigrant minors in federal custody, and that’s what we — all of us — must try to stop.

We don’t know the young woman’s name. To protect her privacy, she has only been publicly referred to as “Jane Doe.”

We don’t know which Central American nation she once called home. We don’t know why she left. We do know that she came to the United States in September without parents or other relatives and was caught, according to accounts by The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

We also know that Jane Doe learned that she was pregnant after a medical exam while she was in federal custody in Texas, and she decided to get an abortion.

It’s not easy to get an abortion in Texas, but in Jane Doe’s country, abortions are banned entirely. She told her lawyers she didn’t want to tell her parents about the pregnancy because “they beat an older sister who was pregnant so she would have a miscarriage.”

An organization in Texas called Jane’s Due Process helped her negotiate the state’s abortion hurdles, as did the American Civil Liberties Union. A judge issued a state court order on Sept. 25 permitting her abortion without notification of her parents, as a 17-year-old American would have been able to.

Jane Doe was 11 weeks pregnant. Texas law limits abortions after 20 weeks to cases involving medical emergencies. Her clock was ticking. Private money had been raised to pay for the procedure. Typically, according to the Jane’s Due Process website, the abortion would have occurred within a week.

This was not a typical case.

Federal officials notified Jane Doe’s parents of her pregnancy and refused to either take her to a place where the abortion would be done or let others take her there. Instead, she was taken to a religiously affiliated crisis pregnancy center where she was urged to have the baby.

“They made me see a doctor that tried to convince me not to abort and to look at sonograms,” she said. “People I don’t even know are trying to make me change my mind.”

The ACLU fought in court on her behalf. The U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services fought back, arguing that the government isn’t required to facilitate access to abortions. Instead, they argued, Jane Doe could go home — back to where abortions aren’t legal. Back to where her parents might beat her. Back to a country she had chosen to leave at great risk.

Eventually, on Oct. 24, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ordered the Trump administration to let Jane Doe obtain an abortion “promptly and without delay.” On Wednesday, Oct. 25, she did. She was about 15 weeks pregnant.

In a statement released by her lawyers, Jane Doe said, “I’m not ready to be a parent. I made my decision, and that is between me and God.”

Call her an illegal immigrant, call her an undocumented alien, label her however you please — we call Jane Doe a courageous young woman in search of something better than she left behind.

Thanks to some of the strangers who surrounded her in Texas and treated her like a human being with the rights we all share, she may yet find that better life.