A 17-year-old undocumented minor living in federal custody in Texas is being denied her right to an abortion by the federal government.
American Civil Liberties Union lawyers, who call the move "shocking" and "straight from dystopian fiction" are requesting an emergency hearing Wednesday in a California federal court to grant her abortion access before she's too far along in her pregnancy.
The girl, dubbed "Jane Doe" in court documents, is currently living in a Brownsville facility for undocumented and unaccompanied minors run by the feds where, by law, she is required access
to "family planning services, including pregnancy tests and ... access to medical reproductive health services and emergency contraception."
Jane Doe appears to have jumped through all the hoops necessary to obtain a legal abortion in Texas. She obtained a judge's permission to have an abortion (a requirement for all minors in the state), and had been attending regular check-ups with a doctor in preparation for the procedure. That's when the U.S. government got involved.
"Defendants prohibited me from traveling to the health care center for the examination, counseling, and abortion," writes Doe in a Oct. 5 legal declaration. "I feel like they are trying to coerce me to carry my pregnancy to term."
She writes that federal officials contacted her mother to try and make her convince Doe against getting an abortion.
"I do not want to be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against my will," she writes.
In emails obtained by the ACLU, U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Scott Lloyd explicitly discourages Jonathan White, deputy director for children's programs at the Office of Refugee Resettlement, from letting Doe obtain judicial approval to get an abortion and instead tells him to seek out "spiritual counseling." He also recommends White send Doe to a non-medical "crisis pregnancy center" to get an ultrasound. These religious centers are known for guilting and persuading women out of getting an abortion.
Lloyd has openly opposed abortion, despite it being a legal health care procedure in the U.S.
His views are backed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed an amicus brief in court Tuesday siding with the feds. He said that allowing Doe to go forward with the abortion would create a "free-for-all" for "anyone on Earth" to get an abortion in the U.S, and place a burden on the public.
"Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions," Paxton said in a press release.
Brigitte Amiri, ACLU senior staff attorney, said she was upset by Paxton's apparent denial of human rights to someone in federal custody — but sees the Trump Administration as the lead offender.
“The Trump Administration’s action is shocking — a young woman is essentially being held hostage and forced by federal officials to continue a pregnancy against her will,” said Amiri. “It’s blatantly unconstitutional, not to mention unconscionable.”
The ACLU hearing will take place Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 9:30 (PST).