The Jane Doe abortion saga is finally over. On Wednesday morning, the 17 year old, who made her decision to get an abortion over a month ago, was able to have the procedure. After weeks of litigation in state and federal court, justice prevailed.
The ACLU released a statement from Jane Doe Wednesday that tells her story in her own words. “No one should be shamed for making the right decision for themselves. I would not tell any other girl in my situation what they should do. That decision is hers and hers alone,” she said.
Just days ago, things were not looking good for the teenager, who is an undocumented immigrant and being detained in a Texas facility. A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia ruled late Friday that the federal government could continue to block Jane Doe from getting an abortion until October 31st, and maybe even longer than that.
Late Sunday night, the ACLU appealed that decision to all of the judges on the D.C. federal appeals court. The government opposed that request on Monday morning, and the court, acting almost as quickly as a court can act, ruled 6-3 Tuesday afternoon that the government must immediately allow Jane Doe to get her abortion.
From there, the outcome was still up in the air. The government could have appealed to the Supreme Court, which could have halted the proceedings – and Jane Doe’s chances – once again. Or, there could have been complications in getting the doctor to the clinic to perform her abortion. Texas law requires the same doctor to perform the abortion that gave the patient her counseling; Jane Doe had that required counseling last week, and the doctor who counseled her was not scheduled to be at the clinic again this week. So she could have had to wait until next week for that doctor to return to the clinic, or get a new doctor to counsel her and then wait another 24 hours for the abortion, per Texas law.
Thankfully, none of that happened. Before the government could appeal, the doctor from last week’s counseling session came back to the clinic.
For Jane Doe – who never wavered from her decision, despite the attention and the efforts by the federal government to coerce her – this is a huge relief, as it ends the pregnancy she did not want. However, her fate is still uncertain, as she is still being detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The person who ultimately is in charge of her custody is a rabid anti-abortion activist who has been publicly defied. The shelter has already been accused of harassing and abusing Jane Doe because of her pregnancy. Now that she has had an abortion against the shelter’s desires, the harassment and abuse could get even worse while she awaits the determination of her immigration status.
And the same scenario could play out for others in Jane Doe’s situation. ORR continues to have a policy of not “facilitating” abortion in any way, and the Tuesday appeals court decision did not find that policy unconstitutional. Until that policy is stopped, more young women are sure to face the same agonizing ordeal as Jane Doe.
And nothing that happened with Jane Doe changes the unjustness of the law that’s on the books in Texas and the 36 other states requiring parents to be involved in their children’s decision to end their pregnancy – policy that gives other people veto power over a young person’s bodily autonomy. Those states require minors to get a parent’s consent or inform a parent before a minor has an abortion. If the minor chooses not to do so, because she doesn’t have a good relationship with her parents or her parents have abused her, she can go before a judge to make the case that she is mature enough or it’s in her best interests to have an abortion. This is what happened for Jane Doe in Texas. But for many minors who are unsuccessful in those efforts, the forced childbirth that was feared for Jane Doe becomes their reality.
So yes, after more than a month of obstruction from the Trump administration, Jane Doe was finally able to get the abortion she chose. That is cause for celebration. But the unjust obstacles that others like her – both undocumented immigrants and citizens alike – face in obtaining an abortion remain.