An undocumented pregnant teenager, who was the subject of a legal battle between the Trump administration and immigration lawyers over whether she wants and can obtain an abortion, told a Texas judge in a closed-door meeting that she does not want the procedure after all. The case was dismissed Monday evening.
The teenager at the center of the case in Texas, referred to in court documents as Jane Doe, originally told immigration lawyers that she wanted an abortion and they began proceedings to enable her to get one. Shortly thereafter, Trump’s Office of Refugee Resettlement presented handwritten notes from Jane Doe saying that she had changed her mind.
When the lawyers attempted to meet with her, the Trump administration denied them access and refused to bring Jane Doe to court for a judicial bypass hearing, which is required under Texas law for minors seeking abortions who are unable to obtain permission from their parents or guardians.
Because of these conflicting narratives, on March 1 a federal appeals court ordered a closed-door meeting between Jane Doe and the judge, where she could tell him what she really wanted for her pregnancy without pressure from either side. This meeting took place last week.
Since October, four other pregnant, undocumented teenagers have been part of a separate, high-profile case against the Trump administration brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The case accused ORR — the branch of Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services in charge of undocumented minors — of unlawfully blocking the teenagers from obtaining abortions. Since then, all of the young women in that case have been able to obtain abortions, either through court orders or other means.
In the order of dismissal signed Monday in the Texas case, US District Judge Rolando Olvera, who sits in Brownsville, Texas, said he and Jane Doe had a “detailed discussion” in his chambers, “with the assistance of a court reporter and a court interpreter.”
From this discussion he determined that she was “no longer interested in an abortion.”
Significantly, Olvera also used the order to scold the Trump administration for refusing to bring Jane Doe to an initial hearing in state court related to her pregnancy and the judicial bypass in February. That led to a 24-day delay for Jane Doe to have her “day in court,” Olvera wrote, noting that the delay could have put her health in danger.
“In the event [Doe] had wished to pursue an abortion, said abortion would have been more dangerous to the health of [Doe] with each passing day,” Olvera wrote.
Olvera added that if ORR had brought the teenager into state court in a timely manner, and she didn’t want the abortion, the whole case would have been resolved much more quickly. ORR’s refusal to bring Jane Doe to the state court hearing prompted a series of legal proceedings that ended up in federal court; much of the case remains under seal.
Over the past month, anti-abortion advocacy groups pointed to the Texas case as evidence that the immigration lawyers, who are also involved in the ACLU case in DC court, were attempting to “force” Jane Doe to get an abortion. The group Susan B. Anthony List first distributed the Justice Department’s filing referring to Doe’s handwritten notes in mid-February, along with a statement saying that Jane Doe was “rejecting being manipulated as a political pawn.”
“We wholly support every person’s ability to make her own decision about pregnancy,” Brigitte Amiri, the lead lawyer in the ACLU’s case, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday. But, she continued, the head of ORR Scott Lloyd “has shown time and again that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to take that decision away from them.”
Amiri said that “although the minor recently told a judge that she no longer wanted an abortion, Lloyd’s obstruction and delay tactics” in blocking Jane Doe from her attorneys and from the court “are nevertheless disturbing.”
Ema O'Connor is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zoe Tillman is a legal reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Zoe Tillman at email@example.com.
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