Texas and the United States Must Respect the Dignity of Immigrant Teenagers — Not Force Them to Continue Unwanted Pregnancies
The U.S. Government through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is refusing to allow pregnant minors in its custody to obtain abortion care and is forcing unaccompanied minors (UAMs) who decide to have an abortion to submit to anti-abortion “counseling” from so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs).
Jane’s Due Process, working with the American Civil Liberties Union and local counsels, Marie Christine Cortez, Attorney Ad Litem, and Rochelle Garza, Guardian Ad Litem, have helped a UAM, “Jane,” to obtain a court order giving her a right to consent to her own abortion care. Jane’s Due Process worked with local abortion funds to obtain funding for the procedure. Yet, ORR has refused to release her for her medical care even to her court-appointed guardian ad litem.
The actions of the federal government have now delayed Jane’s access to abortion care for three weeks – past the time for her to obtain the safer, less intrusive medication abortion. “The government’s insistence on making Jane fodder for political football is hurting her, violating her human dignity, and treating her like an object unworthy of any concern,” said Susan Hays, the legal director and co-founder of Jane’s Due Process. Further delay will push her into the second trimester.
“The federal government is punishing young women by denying them bodily autonomy. ORR contracted facilities routinely take UAMs for other medical appointments. ORR leadership decided to single out this one medical procedure – clearly a move to force this young woman to give birth against her will,” said Hays.
“My client has been very clear on her decision to terminate her pregnancy. As her representative, I found that involving her abusive parents in this decision was not in her best interest, one of the grounds on which a judge can grant a judicial bypass. ORR is standing in the way of the legal rights of my client,” said Rochelle Garza, Guardian Ad Litem for Jane.
The facility blocked the young woman from receiving unbiased pregnancy options counseling and an accurate confirmation of the stage of her pregnancy at the nearby state-licensed abortion clinic. Instead, ORR forced caseworkers at the shelter to take Jane to a religious clinic for counseling and a pregnancy test.
Tina Hester, executive director of Jane’s Due Process, added, “While no exact numbers can be determined, news outlets and migrant centers report between 60 to 80 percentage of Central American women are sexually assaulted along the way. It is unfathomable that when ORR takes custody of minors, the government further traumatizes those fleeing violence and rape in their home countries by shaming them and forcing them to undergo counseling and medical exams they neither want nor need.”
**UPDATE** On October 11, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that they did not have jurisdiction over the case, and therefore could not grant an order against ORR to allow Jane to have her abortion. “Today’s District Court ruling comes as a serious disappointment, because it delays Jane Doe’s abortion even further,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Although the court found it couldn’t hear the case, it was careful to explain that the government has no business blocking Jane Doe’s abortion. Jane Doe has already been blocked by the Trump administration from two appointments related to her abortion care. But she has shown tremendous courage and persistence, and we’re not giving up. The denial of abortion care and basic human rights by this Administration will not go unanswered: the ACLU will continue to pursue all avenues to get justice for Jane Doe and young women like her.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Susan Hays, Legal Director, 214-557-4819
To schedule an interview with Ms. Hays or other attorneys involved in case,
Tina Hester, Executive Director, 512-450-4899