This Update To The Undocumented Teen's Abortion Case Could Finally Get Jane Doe Out Of Legal Limbo
After weeks of legal wrangling, pitting reproductive rights organizations and advocates against the federal government, a D.C. appeals court has ruled in favor of an undocumented Texas teen who's seeking an abortion. There’s a decent chance you’ve already heard of the story ― while the girl’s name is not publicly known, she's an immigrant, she's reportedly 17 years old, and she's been fighting the Trump administration to secure an abortion prior to passing the 20-week gestational threshold at which the state of Texas outlaws them.
The young woman in question is known to the public only as Jane Doe. Given the intense sensitivity of the case, with reproductive rights a major battleground in American politics at the moment, as well as the fact that she's a minor, her identity is being protected.
"Women who are undocumented face various barriers to all types of health care services and abortion care is no different," Dr. Kristyn Brandi, an OB/GYN in Los Angeles and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, tells Bustle. "I think the reason that this case is so high-profile is because it illustrates how difficult it can be for any woman to obtain reproductive health care, let alone a teenager and an undocumented woman."
Doe reportedly fled a life of violence in Central America, crossing the border into Texas, where she ultimately ended up in a shelter for underage undocumented immigrants. When she discovered she was pregnant, a Texas judge ruled that she was capable of deciding for herself whether to keep the pregnancy, and she thus decided she wanted an abortion ― a constitutionally protected right, thanks to the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling back in 1973.
She was not immediately afforded that right, however. To the contrary, the Trump administration's Department of Health and Human Services intervened, attempting to prevent Doe from terminating her pregnancy. The federal agency was able to assert authority over the decision thanks to the fact that she was staying in a federally funded shelter.
A spokesperson for the reproductive rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America tells Bustle that the Trump administration was trying to "run out the clock" on Doe's ability to get a legal abortion. "This twisted game the Trump administration is playing with this woman's life is yet another example of their egregious overreach to force her, and women like her, to give birth against their will," she adds. "It's clear they're intentionally running out the clock by personally intervening in this woman's healthcare at every turn."
Tuesday's ruling, however, may mean she'll be able to move forward. While it's still theoretically possible that the Trump administration could appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, setting up a major, urgent case in a limited amount of time. Jane Doe is reportedly 16 weeks pregnant at present, giving her at most a few weeks left before she'll cross the state's 20-week deadline to obtain a legal abortion. A protracted appeal at the level of the Supreme Court could risk eating up what little time she has left.
"Health care providers want to help women make the best decision for themselves and their families and it is hard to do this with legal restrictions that put barriers between women and safe, legal health care," Brandi says. "These arbitrary limits on abortion care do not improve the health of women and just add more hurdles to obtaining care which is unprecedented in any other health care field."
Many pro-choice advocates and activists believe the federal government is trying to obstruct and delay things long enough that she'll be unable to legally terminate her pregnancy, resulting in a government-forced childbirth. It remains to be seen whether the administration will appeal the ruling, however, or whether Jane Doe will be allowed to exercise her reproductive rights.