Recently, a 17-year-old undocumented teenager from Central America was detained in Texas after trying to cross the border into the United States.  Soon afterward, she learned she was pregnant and asserted that she wanted an abortion.  Jane Doe, as she is named in court filings, required permission from a judge to obtain her abortion because of the parental consent laws in Texas.  Jane’s Due Process, a nonprofit that works with pregnant minors in the state, helped her to successfully get a judge’s permission and collect funds for the procedure.  The abortion was scheduled for the end of September, before her second trimester would begin.

This is where the story should have ended.  A minor who was adamant about receiving an abortion had secured permission and funding for her scheduled procedure. Instead, the Trump administration and the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), E. Scott Lloyd, stepped in to interfere with this process and actively prevent her from accessing her constitutionally protected right to obtain an abortion.  The shelter where Jane Doe was housed was told that they were not to cooperate with her to accommodate her procedure.  In a state where abortion is almost completely illegal after 20 weeks, simply refusing to cooperate and delaying the procedure can easily result in the option being removed from the table completely.

Worse than simply preventing the procedure, Jane Doe was taken to a religiously-affiliated, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center, where she was forced to have an unnecessary ultrasound, and was subjected to coercive counseling, all by staff members who were not medical or healthcare professionals.  At Lloyd’s request, the center even contacted Jane Doe’s mother to inform her of the pregnancy, despite the fact that Doe objected and told them that her mother was physically abusive.

A judge issued a temporary restraining order and required the administration to allow her abortion.  Yet Lloyd still appealed, delayed, and resisted.  Finally, after more than a month had passed, Jane Doe was able to obtain her abortion.  This, however, is not an isolated incident.  With individuals like Lloyd and the current administration in power, many young girls and women who are detained are subjected to this sort of treatment.

It is estimated that approximately 60 percent of female migrants have been raped, and thus, many unaccompanied minors who are being detained find themselves pregnant.  Still, Lloyd, who has a long history of anti-abortion rhetoric and actions, has banned shelters from providing access to abortions and other services in favor of “life-affirming options counseling.”  Lloyd has even personally visited or contacted unaccompanied minors to attempt to dissuade them from having an abortion.

It is wrong for the government to prevent individuals from accessing medical procedures they have every right to obtain.  It is unacceptable for the government to hold women hostage and force them to bear children against their will.  Efforts to chip away at Roe v. Wade do not change the fact that access to abortion is a constitutionally protected right.  Government officials who stand in the way of this right are in direct violation of court precedence and are violating their oath to uphold the Constitution.  

This has nothing to do with morals or tax dollars or religious freedom and everything to do with power and the intentional disintegration of bodily autonomy and fundamental rights. This is all part of this administration’s crusade against women’s healthcare, which reaches far beyond unaccompanied minors like Jane Doe.  It is not difficult to imagine a similar situation arising here in West Virginia, and as such, it is imperative that we stand up for the rights of women everywhere.  We must not allow government officials to push their own personal, religious agendas at the expense of the U.S. Constitution or at the expense of women in this country.

-Mollie Kennedy