“Justicia para Jane! Whose bodies? Our bodies!” chanted a group of about 30 protesters in front of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building Friday morning. The protesters, made up of mostly Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America organizers and staff, were speaking out against the Trump administration’s decision to bar an undocumented teenager from getting an abortion for her unwanted pregnancy. The young woman, identified as Jane Doe in court, was detained after crossing the southern U.S. border in Texas.
The administration recently adopted a new policy that prevents unaccompanied immigrant minors from getting abortion care. Jane Doe obtained a judicial waiver so that she would have the legal authority to get an abortion, but she was sent to a “crisis pregnancy center.” These centers, right-wing organizations that are known for spreading misinformation about reproductive health, actively dissuade women from getting abortions. Doe was also required to have a sonogram, according to the ACLU.
Gabby Weiss, field organizer with NARAL Pro-Choice America, told ThinkProgress that Texas has long been a battleground for reproductive rights, since it has had some of the most onerous abortion restrictions in the country. After the victory for abortion rights in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision, Texas continues to push for more restrictions.
“[Texas] officials have been cracking down on abortion however they can, whether it’s shutting down clinics or making the procedure prohibitively expensive,” Weiss said. “So we’re seeing more and more barriers, especially with women with additional marginalized identities like undocumented women and women of color, and low-income women who don’t have access. It’s important to remove as many barriers for women as possible across the spectrum and across the country.”
Reverend Daniel Kanter, a clergyman in Dallas, Texas, who is chair of the clergy advocacy board for Planned Parenthood, said he didn’t know why people of faith aren’t more concerned about the government “muscling a young woman into personal decisions” between herself, her doctor, and her God.
“I can’t understand why people of faith aren’t outraged as federal funds are used to persecute and deny services to the most vulnerable in their hour of need,” Kanter said. “We’re calling for religious freedom, but religious freedom is freedom from the state. It’s not for the state to make decisions about people’s bodies. This woman needs our help. She is one of the most vulnerable people we can imagine … I’m calling on people of faith to consider this deep and meaningful moment to stand up and speak out.”
The federal appeals court in Washington held a hearing on the case on Friday, after it temporarily stayed a judge’s ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday to allow Doe to receive an abortion. During the hearing, a federal government lawyer said the Trump administration is not denying the teenager’s constitutional right to an abortion.
“What’s happening here is the government refusing to facilitate the abortion and that is not an undue burden,” the attorney, Catherine Dorsey, said. “We are not putting an obstacle in her path.” According to the Texas Tribune, lawyers spoke of Doe’s home country as if abortion was not legally available there, although Justice Department lawyers have argued she should get an abortion in her home country. After the hearing, a three-judge panel will decide on Friday afternoon if she can have an abortion.
Although it is unclear how Jane Doe became pregnant, the decision for the federal government to deny care appears particularly cruel given the fact that between 60 and 80 percent of migrant women and girls are sexually assaulted on their way to the United States through the southern border, according to a 2012 Women’s Refugee Commission report. Children who traveled with smuggling guides reported that there was sexual abuse and that they could hear women and girls screaming as they were raped.
When asked about restrictions on care, particularly to undocumented rape survivors, Weiss said, “Undocumented women, women of color, young women, queer women are facing all kinds of violence both from the Trump administration to interpersonal violence, like we’ve been talking about this week with #MeToo.”
“It’s atrocious that the Trump administration is denying this path to bodily autonomy to women and girls and minors like Jane Doe and removing their right to make medical decisions about their bodies,” she added.