Freedom of choice

Undocumented teen undergoes abortion after winning month-long legal battle with Trump administration

(Vice News/YouTube)

After a month of legal struggles with the Trump administration, a pregnant 17-year-old who illegally crossed the U.S. border into Texas in September has been allowed to undergo abortion. The teenager, known as Jane Doe to protect her identity, had asked to be allowed to undergo the procedure immediately after her pregnancy was discovered during a physical exam following her apprehension by immigration officials. But even after a Texas state judge granted her permission to obtain an abortion, immigration officials refused to allow her to leave detention to undergo the procedure — instead transporting her to pro-life health centers where doctors reportedly prayed over her and told her to reconsider her decision.

Lawyers for the Trump administration, meanwhile, appealed the Texas judge’s ruling by arguing that the government had the right to “[refuse] to facilitate a pregnant unaccompanied minor’s access to abortion while she is in federal custody.” They claimed that this did not violate the law by putting an “undue burden” on her right to abortion, since she had the choice of returning to her home country.

“Any alleged ‘obstacle’ to Ms. Doe’s ability to obtain an abortion,” they wrote in court documents, “is by her own choice.”

On Tuesday, an appeals court ruled that the government’s claim that the teenager could simply return home was “not a constitutionally adequate choice,” especially since abortion was illegal in the teenager’s home country. Following the ruling, the teenager, who was 16 weeks pregnant, underwent an abortion on Wednesday. While the Justice Department has not directly commented on the news, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton said in a statement, “Today’s loss of innocent human life is tragic.”

In an interview with VICE News, the teenager described abject conditions at the detention center explained that she knew she wasn’t ready to be a mother.

“I didn’t like that they took me to the doctor,” she said, referring to the pro-life health center. “But I had no other option.” The only real freedom she had, she added was to “cry and vent by yourself.”

Under a new Trump administration policy, shelters are required to get approval from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement director, Scott Lloyd, before helping minors who seek to obtain an abortion.

Watch the teenager’s interview with VICE News below.

Read the full story at The New York Times and Vice News.


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