Justice for Jane


When a person crosses a border, they still carry fundamental human rights- including the right to choose if, when, and how they have a family. Bethany Van Kampen from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health discusses the reproductive health needs of migrants fleeing their home countries and how these needs are failing to be met in the United States.

Migrants flee to the U.S. from home countries due to intersectional discrimination caused by natural disasters, economic inequality, violence, and other factors. More than 120,000 young people (ages 6-17) from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras arrived to the U.S. between 2014-2016. Unaccompanied minors are sent to shelters run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within 72 hours. The ORR is responsible for 7,700 unaccompanied minors, including hundreds of pregnant minors.

The ORR has a legal duty to provide comprehensive medical care, (including a full range of reproductive health care) to those in custody. Most of these unaccompanied minors were able to access this care under the Obama administration.

In March of 2017, the Trump administration issued a new interpretation of a George Bush-era policy that gives the ORR the ability to increase their involvement with patient’s medical needs if they include certain procedures, like surgery or abortion. The administration altered the policy so that any federally-funded shelter may not facilitate abortion without direction and approval from the Office of Refugee Resettlement Director.

Scott Lloyd, the current director for the ORR, was previously a lawyer with Knights of Columbus. He has suggested in the past that women who obtain federally-funded contraception should have to sign a non-abortion pledge. He has also argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion infringes upon a man’s right to procreate. He continues to argue for ‘abortion reversal,’ which is scientifically unproven and potentially harmful. He has personally shamed and coerced young people in custody to continue with their unwanted pregnancies.

Jane Doe is a 17-year old that entered the U.S. through Texas from Central America. After finding out she was 11 weeks pregnant, she requested an abortion. Under Texas abortion law, a minor can obtain an abortion through a judicial bypass, which allows the minor to procure an abortion without the consent of a parent or guardian. Jane went before a judge and argued for a judicial bypass, and on September 25, 2017, it was granted to her. Despite obtaining the judicial bypass, securing her own funding, and her own transportation, the ORR blocked her from leaving the facility to get her abortion. They did, however, transfer her to a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC), where they forced her to review an invasive sonogram performed against her will, by non-medical personnel.

After filing a lawsuit against the administration, the DC District Court ordered that Jane be allowed her abortion. The government appealed to the DC Circuit. Eventually, the case was deferred back to DC District Court, and Jane was allowed to receive her abortion in her 16th week of pregnancy (Texas bans abortion access at 20 weeks of pregnancy). Jane Doe was released from custody to a sponsor on January 15, 2018.

In December 2017, the ORR again tried backing two other undocumented minors, Jane Poe and Jane Roe, from receiving abortion care. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on their behalf, and the judge ruled that the girls be allowed to terminate their pregnancies. The Justice Department appealed to the DC Circuit and Supreme Court, but only for Jane Roe. Jane Poe could now access her abortion. Before a decision could be made, it was revealed that Jane Roe was 19, meaning she could access her abortion under ICE’s custody.

Another girl, Jane Moe, was blocked for more than two weeks by ORR until she was able to get a sponsor.

 This federal campaign to shame, bully, and deny care to young women in custody is unconscionable, an abuse of power, and an invasion of privacy. Everyone should be able to access the health care they need, including abortion, and no one should face political interference in their health care decisions, including while a person is detained.

 Photo by Martha Dominguez on Unsplash

Links from this episode

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
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