Jane Doe vs. Donald Trump: A young woman fights for her rights

A young woman in Texas known only as Jane Doe finds out she’s pregnant and knows she wants to end the pregnancy. Because Texas bans minors from accessing abortion care without parental consent, this young woman finds a lawyer and goes through the arduous judicial bypass process to get legal authorization for her abortion. She makes two separate appointments—another medically unnecessary requirement of Texas law—and her lawyer agrees to drive her to the clinic.

But when she tries to leave for her first appointment, the federal government steps in to block her care. Instead of the clinic, she is taken to a religiously affiliated “Crisis Pregnancy Center,” forced to undergo coercive counseling and made to have a sonogram conducted by non-medical personnel.

This is not a leaked script from the upcoming second season of The Handmaid’s Tale. This is a true story about a young woman in Texas who is fighting for her health, future and basic rights.

Jane Doe is an unaccompanied minor, which means she came to the U.S. before turning 18 and without her parents. She is currently being detained, as is often the case with unaccompanied immigrant youth, in a government-funded shelter she is not permitted to leave. And federal officials, emboldened and empowered by the Trump administration, are doing everything in their power—legal or not—to stop her from getting an abortion.

Jane’s story is shocking. The abuse of power, invasion of privacy and coordinated, federally-funded campaign to shame, bully, and deny care to this young woman is yet another outrage from an administration bent on taking away women rights. And the details of her case only deepen the horror. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) told Jane’s mother about the pregnancy despite Jane clearly stating she did not want her to know. While Jane’s wish to maintain her privacy should have been respected regardless, it’s worth noting her reason for wanting to keep her parents uninvolved: When Jane's older sister became pregnant, their parents physically abused her.

At every turn, Jane is doing all she can to protect her health and safety, and those efforts are being sabotaged by agents of the Trump administration. And Jane’s is not an isolated case. ORR is now blocking all unaccompanied minors in its custody from receiving abortion care, and shelters are being directed not to let minors seek judicial bypasses or even allow them to meet with attorneys — a flagrant violation of state law and their constitutional rights.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently made the ludicrous claim that allowing Jane to get the abortion which is her legal right would turn Texas into a "sanctuary state for abortions.” But no one is going to confuse Texas for a sanctuary state for any kind of health care, not with our mounting maternal death rate and anti-abortion extremist legislature. If anything, Jane Doe’s case has already shown us some of the many cruel and unjust barriers women in Texas face when seeking reproductive health care.

These are the wages women are being paid under President Trump, who said on national television that women should be punished for seeking abortions and chose religious fundamentalist and anti-abortion extremist Mike Pence for his vice president. Is this the beginning of Pence’s fantasy of consigning Roe v. Wade to “the ash heap of history”?

On Wednesday, a judge ordered the Trump administration to forego its efforts to block Jane Doe, a 17-year-old unaccompanied minor from Latin America, from moving forward with her abortion. Immediately after, the administration appealed this decision and the DC circuit court granted an emergency stay. As a result, Jane’s access to her abortion procedure remains tied up in court.

The lack of national outrage for Jane Doe is disturbing, and telling. Let’s hope people start paying attention before it’s too late for Jane — and for the rest of us, too.

Nancy Cardenas

Associate director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health