Yeah, I’m not usually the person to start sharing this, but for all the reproductive justice blogs I follow I’m hearing crickets about Jane Doe’s case, so here you go.
In case y’all are unaware, the Trump administration is barricading a 17-year-old’s access to abortion.
This gets complicated as fuck, so stick with me:
Jane Doe is an undocumented minor currently in federal custody in Brownsville, Texas, right on the border with Mexico. Reports are that her family of origin is abusive. She is pregnant and has, in no uncertain terms, voiced a desire for termination. Because Texas is a state with parental consent laws for minors seeking abortion, she had to apply for judicial bypass – essentially, that’s where a minor goes before a judge and testifies as to why obtaining parental consent is impossible or would put her at grave risk of physical or psychological harm – to waive the parental consent law.
She obtained the judicial bypass on September 25.
Texas also requires patients seeking abortion to have a consultation with the performing physician a minimum of 24 hours before the abortion is to be performed. She made arrangements to do so.
Officials of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) took her to an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center instead, where she was subjected to anti-choice propaganda and misleading information about abortion itself and the people and places involved in its performance.
Still, she wanted the abortion. The government refused to transport her to the clinic, saying that they do not have to “facilitate” an abortion. (The Obama administration ruled that they did; the Trump administration struck that ruling down back in March.) Her guardian ad litem voiced ready willingness to take her. They still wouldn’t release her to her guardian.
There has been back and forth in the courts, with appeals, overturns, more appeals, temporary restraining orders, and a whole lot more bullshit, for the past several weeks.
And today, October 20 – nearly four weeks after this woman obtained her judicial bypass – a federal appeals court agreed that HHS has no legal obligation to “facilitate” an abortion by releasing someone in their custody to obtain one. The Trump administration argues that this does not constitute an “undue burden,” which is the litmus test that forms much of the foundation of Roe v. Wade.
(Which is, of course, fucking bullshit.)
The court has decreed that she must find a “sponsor” to “facilitate” her abortion and has set a deadline of October 31, eleven days from now. If that day comes and goes and no sponsor has been found, then the lower court can, again, order the government to release her to the clinic, and the government can, again, appeal it, and this whole shitshow starts again.
Here’s the kicker: Jane Doe is, according to the reports I’ve read, currently 17 weeks gestation (15 weeks conceptually). The closest clinic to where she is in Brownsville – in McAllen, about 45 minutes away – is unable to provide abortions after the end of the seventeenth week (fifteenth conceptually).
If she gets a sponsor and can get to the clinic on October 31, she’ll be eighteen and a half weeks (sixteen and a half conceptually) – too far for a procedure at her closest clinic.
Texas altogether stops providing abortions at the end of the twenty-first week (nineteenth conceptually). Praytell, what happens if we put her through this bullshit for another month?
Here’s your answer: HHS officials are, according to some reports, frequently asking this woman what she plans to name her baby. (Did you just almost vomit? Because same.)
One option that has been suggested by the courts is that she return to her abusive family in her country of origin to obtain her procedure. While that’s a shitty idea for many reasons, at least one of those reasons has nothing to do with returning to an abusive situation: If we assume her country of origin is Mexico, which I do based on where she is currently being held, then abortion access is largely relegated to illegal practitioners and many states explicitly prohibit abortion. In Mexico City, the only place in Mexico where the procedure is legal on demand, the upper limit is twelve weeks, which she has long since passed. The only way she’s going to get an abortion is if she does it in the United States.
Not an undue burden my fat ass. Failure to release her to the clinic to obtain her procedure constitutes a pretty goddamn massive burden. They have already delayed her procedure into the second trimester, and it’s not going to be long before they’ve delayed her into “too late” territory, which is their obvious intent.
Tl;dr – the Trump administration is blocking an undocumented minor and abuse survivor’s access to a procedure that is explicitly legal in the United States and is throwing out some magnificently shady tactics to do so.
Be up in fucking arms about this. I am.