After a legal ordeal that wound through five separate courts over the past month, an immigrant girl in federal custody got an abortion Wednesday.
Her decision to end her pregnancy defied a Trump administration policy against allowing unaccompanied minors in federally funded shelters to get abortions. Scott Lloyd, the new director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, has instead sent girls to pro-life counseling, and in at least one case personally visited a girl to discuss her pregnancy.
A case against that policy is ongoing in federal court, but today marks the end of the first challenge from the ACLU, brought on behalf of the girl called Jane Doe in the court case.
Doe has been held at a shelter in South Texas since early September, and federal officials have directed the shelter staff not to release her to visit a nearby abortion clinic. Beginning in late September, Doe missed a series of appointments at the clinic while her attorneys and Trump administration officials fought over the policy in court.
On Monday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government must step aside and let Doe leave the shelter with a court-appointed guardian to get an abortion.
In a statement released by the ACLU Wednesday, Doe said through her guardian: “People I don’t even know are trying to make me change my mind. I made my decision and that is between me and God. Through all of this, I have never changed my mind.”
A few details about the girl came out over the course of her court fight. Her lawyers said she fled her home country because she feared her abusive parents. Doe’s sister, they said, had been abused by their parents after learning the sister was pregnant.
Doe remained in custody longer than is typical for unaccompanied minors, at least in part because a family member in the U.S. changed her mind about taking the girl in, according to a Justice Department attorney. The Office of Refugee Resettlement refused to release Doe to another potential sponsor because he was a single man.
Doe hasn’t filed for asylum or another means of remaining in the country, but in her statement Wednesday, she described her hopes for the future. “I dream about studying, becoming a nurse, and one day working with the elderly,” she said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also issued a statement Wednesday, “expressing profound disappointment” at the news. Paxton, leading a group of a dozen Republican attorneys general, have argued that allowing Doe to get an abortion will make the U.S. an “abortion sanctuary,” luring girls to the country with the promise of government-funded abortions. (The government did not pay for Doe’s abortion.)
Justice Department lawyers echoed that fear in their court arguments, but there is little evidence to back up the claim. Records filed during the court case show that from 2014 to 2015, while the Obama administration allowed abortion access for minors in custody, federal shelters housed 1,176 pregnant minors and allowed 17 abortions, 10 of them funded by the government.
Paxton apparently blamed the Trump administration for not appealing the case further.
“The abortion occurred after the Department of Justice failed to appeal to the United States Supreme Court,” his statement reads.
Patrick Michels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickMichels.