Text by Zoë Fay-Stindt, Literary Women in Action
For many in the US, 2017 was an emotional whirlwind of a year, and the Jane’s Due Process team was not exempt from the chaos. Amidst whiplash headlines and new harmful policies, JDP was involved in one of the year’s most invasive, disturbing cases of injustice. In the fall of 2017, a pregnant 17-year-old was held by the federal government at a Brownsville detention center for teens who cross our border alone and without documentation. This young woman—Jane Doe— was one of our clients.
When Jane discovered she was pregnant, we helped her get a judicial bypass to terminate her pregnancy, but the US government went on to block Jane from receiving her abortion for over a month. The Jane’s Due Process team spent weeks fighting for Jane’s justice, working with the ACLU to set a precedent for all young immigrant women, protecting their rights to legal relief, and ultimately granting Jane her legal abortion.
In the midst of Jane Doe’s case, JDP worked day in and day out to manage the usual complexities of supporting young Janes in navigating their pregnancies and abortions. While #justiceforjane caught national attention, there were dozens of other Janes navigating the unknown waters of judicial bypass, pregnancy, birth control, all while trying to maintain the normalcy of being a teenager, that Jane’s Due Process supported in 2017.
Who is Jane?
Almost half of JDP’s clients identify as Hispanic/Latina. African American/Black women make up 23% of the remaining half, and Caucasian/White women make up 18%. The rest of our clients identify as mixed race or Asian. Over 90% of Janes are either 16 or 17, with 8% being 15 and fewer than 1% are 13 or 14.
Close to a third of our Janes don’t live with a parent or guardian. Many of them seek a judicial bypass because their parent or guardian will not consent to an abortion, or threaten kicking Jane out of the house. Over a third fear physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
In 2017, we had 328 intakes. 58% of the Janes we worked with successfully completed the judicial bypass process.
How long does a judicial bypass process take?
The wait is one of the most frustrating aspects of this process for Janes. Although our staff and lawyers work to move things along as quickly as possible, the judicial bypass process inherently creates delays. On average, Jane will get an ultrasound six days after her initial intake with JDP, with her judicial bypass hearing scheduled fifteen days after intake. 21 days later, most Janes will have their abortion.
This delay has a real impact – every day that a Jane is forced to remain pregnant is another day of morning sickness, exhaustion, and anxiety. Many Janes get pushed past the option of a medication abortion, which many of them are interested in when they call but then end up too far along to obtain.
How do Janes feel throughout the process?
“At first I was going to do the abortion but I decided not to but I felt completely unjudged by my decision and I was offered help and resources. Talking to my case manager, our communications were really filled with love and super easy to understand each other.” – Age 17
With everything going on during this chaotic time for Janes, emotional support is a huge priority. 100% of the Janes we worked with who filled out their post-bypass survey felt “very supported throughout the judicial bypass process,” “comfortable speaking honestly and openly with their attorney,” and felt treated “with dignity and respect” by the hotline volunteer when they first called.
Our work on social media & mobile
2017 also marked the launch of our confidential text hotline, requested by Janes. Since May 21, we sent 1,421 texts to 242 young people who needed support or information.
To increase reproductive rights awareness for Janes within Texas, we doubled down on our educational outreach through social media. We reached over 150,000 young women on Instagram between the ages of 14-17, sharing information about access to free, confidential birth control and their right to judicial bypass.
In one December day on Snapchat, over 1,000 people across the state saw our sponsored geofilters which told them how far away they were from their nearest Title X clinic. These clinics offer free birth control to minors without parental consent, and also provide pregnancy options counseling and STI testing and treatment.
Looking ahead: Keeping it Up in 2018!
As always, we could not accomplish any of this without your support.
As we move into 2018, we’ll continue standing by young people as a source of education, support, and advocacy in time of crises.