Immigrant teen wins over government move to deny right to abortion

By Lea Sherman
January 29, 2018

A 17-year-old immigrant, known as Jane Moe, who had been detained by U.S. immigration officials, has won her fight to have an abortion. Since October, she is the fourth young woman to stand down efforts by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to stop them from getting the procedure. The agency is responsible for unaccompanied immigrant youth in U.S. custody.
The government backed off and released Moe from custody and she can now obtain the abortion she has requested.

“The government blocked her for more than two weeks, before deliberately moving her out of their custody only when we filed to take them to court,” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Brigitte Amiri said in a Jan. 11 statement. Amiri filed the suit against the government that led to Moe’s victory.

“We continue to pursue all avenues to ensure that no other young woman like her is forced to continue a pregnancy against her will for purely political reasons,” Amiri said.

Since October Jane Doe, Jane Roe, Jane Poe and now Jane Moe were each barred from obtaining abortions until they went to court.

Even though the government’s regulations don’t contain such strict rules, the Office of Refugee Resettlement has a blanket policy prohibiting abortion unless the young woman’s life is in danger. The New York Times has described Scott Lloyd, the head of the office, as a longtime “anti-abortion crusader.”

Texas authorities back the federal agency, saying the courts are just inviting “abortion tourism.”

Lloyd had written a memorandum arguing Jane Poe should be refused the abortion even though she was eligible under the regulations because her pregnancy was the result of being raped before fleeing to the U.S.

In the first three cases, the U. S. District court in Washington, D.C., ruled in the women’s favor.

Moe got the judicial waiver required by Texas law of all women who seek abortions, had private funds available to pay for the expenses, and staff in the shelter willing to accompany her to the clinic. She was forced to go to “counseling” at an anti-abortion “Crisis Pregnancy Center” and have a sonogram.

But it took the ACLU suit to get the government agency to back off. Scott decided not to wait for a court ruling and released Moe.

Fight continues

After the Oct. 25 court decision clearing the way for Jane Doe’s abortion, government lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to dismiss all claims and wipe out the Washington district court ruling because it might be used by other women.

The ACLU in turn filed a lawsuit, Garza v. Hargan, asking the court to issue an order preventing the government from enforcing its “no abortion” policy against other young women in custody.

Both cases await decision.

The rights of immigrants and women are intertwined in this important fight for the unity of the working class. Women in the U.S. — particularly working-class, rural and young women — continue to face growing restrictions on their right to choose abortion.

There is no abortion provider in some 90 percent of U.S. counties. Hundreds of state laws have been enacted in recent years that further restrict abortion rights, including waiting periods, unnecessary sonograms and draconian regulations on clinics.