A new, disturbing pattern is emerging as the Trump administration denies undocumented youth abortions and forces them to visit crisis pregnancy centers.
Undocumented people are under attack in the United States, and now a fourth undocumented young person in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is being criminalized by the Trump administration and denied abortion access. ‘Jane Moe,’ as she is being called to protect her anonymity, is a 17-year-old in her second trimester and requested an abortion two weeks ago. She’s being asked to disclose both her pregnancy and her abortion request to her parents but, according to the Washington Post, “fears retaliation because she has requested an abortion, and she does not want her family or others to know.” Her home country and the state that she’s being held in have not yet been identified.
The Department of Justice argues they do not believe Jane Moe is “sufficiently mature to make her abortion decision,” and are thus denying her healthcare.
Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds says:
“Once again, in an effort to score political points, the government has shown a disregard for the healthcare needs of young people, people who are most in need of critical support and resources to navigate this cruel system. This has a devastating effect on other undocumented people and young people seeking needed healthcare. When a young or undocumented person is seeking abortion care, or any other medical care, criminalization impedes trust and privacy between a patient and their healthcare provider. While everyone deserves access to the abortions they need, regardless of how they got pregnant, it’s worth noting that many girls like Jane became pregnant as the result of rape.”
According to research from Splinter (formerly Fusion), between 60 and 80 percent of women and girls are raped while crossing the border from Central America into the United States, a dangerous trek often made to escape atrocious conditions of abuse, torture, and violence in their home countries.
This case is happening less than one month after two undocumented 17-year-olds were held hostage in government-funded shelters in Texas, preventing them from accessing the reproductive healthcare they need. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled that the Trump administration could not block the young women’s access to an abortion and ordered that the minors be transported to an abortion clinic “in order to obtain any pregnancy related or abortion-related medical care and to obtain the abortion procedure itself.” Judge Chutkan commented that the minors would experience “irreparable injury” if they were denied an abortion. Courts have ruled against this administration’s decision in these cases repeatedly, making it clear that each time the Trump administration withholds abortion access for a pregnant undocumented person is another attempt to sidestep court decisions and is an indisputable evasion of justice.
The targeting of undocumented youth is a sickening pattern that is just one piece of this administration’s repeated attacks specifically targeting people of color and immigrants. In October 2017, the Trump administration made several attempts to block another immigrant minor’s access to an abortion, delaying her care for nearly a month. Administration officials, including Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Scott Lloyd, have not only prevented Janes from traveling to clinics for their procedures, they’ve also forced them to undergo additional medical procedures and unnecessary counseling meant to change their minds, with Director Lloyd visiting them personally. In this new but all too familiar case, the Trump administration is not only attempting to undermine Jane’s bodily autonomy by barring access to abortion but also actively imposing their personal belief system about a medical issue by forcing her into visiting a crisis pregnancy center.
What we’re seeing is the Trump administration putting into effect a drastic interpretation of the George W. Bush era policy that gave ORR “heightened involvement” in such medical decisions as abortion. The ACLU is taking on Jane Moe’s case, hoping for a ruling that prevents these situations and forces the Trump administration to allow for people in ORR custody to access abortion of their own accord and finances, as was the case under the Obama administration when abortions were not funded except in cases of rape or incest, but also were not denied.
People, regardless of their age or documentation status, deserve immediate access to needed reproductive healthcare. Every day they’re forced to remain pregnant against their will. And every day that undocumented minors are prevented from exercising their bodily autonomy is a crime committed against these folks who deserve compassion and healthcare.
Layidua Salazar, We Testify storyteller and board member ACCESS Women’s Health Justice,
“As a DACA recipient I’ve been undocumented for the past 26 years, and in the four years I’ve had DACA, I’ve been able to think about and build a future. I know what it’s like to live under the oppression of U.S. immigration officials, and I feel for the Janes. When I had my abortion, I was in the middle of deportation proceedings, and I wasn’t sure if I would get care – thankfully, I was able to. Because of the Trump administration decision to end DACA, I’m back to a state of uncertainty. It’s difficult to think about beyond today, because tomorrow I don’t know what’s going to happen. Like many Americans, I’m in a mixed status family. My mother was able to get status and I was not, and she constantly worries about my safety. It is stressful to raise a family under the threat that separation can happen at any moment. Our broken immigration system destroys families. Our nation should not be content with placing children in the foster care system while deporting their parents. This is a reproductive justice issue.”
The National Network of Abortion Funds proudly supports the ACLU in this fight for young people’s right to immediately access their health care needs. We send love and support to all undocumented people, of all ages, who have had their rights taken away when governments exercise control over their bodies. Our oppressive borders already dehumanize and criminalize people as a result of capitalist and imperialist governmental demands, which are reproductive justice issues. Withholding access to abortion from someone because they are young, or because of their documentation status, is a violation of our right to govern our bodies and our lives. Forcing imperialist ideas on the bodies of young people is an appalling and historic form of violence. It’s time to stop using political barriers to force oppressive ideologies upon young people with the least power and resources to fight back.