The rules for shelters contracted with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, laid out in 2014, are quite clear on the matter of access to women’s health care for unaccompanied minors. Victims of sexual abuse in the ORR’s care are entitled to “timely, unimpeded access to emergency medical treatment, crisis intervention services, emergency contraception.”
The American Civil Liberties Union will undoubtedly refer to this policy in their current fight to allow Jane Doe, a 17-year-old immigrant to Texas, access to abortion care in the face of ORR director Scott Lloyd’s direct interference in her case.
Doe’s case is a microcosm of a greater religious debate surrounding abortion access in America. But, unlike challenges to other recent state legislation, Doe’s right to access an abortion while in federal care is clearly stated by the law and must not be denied.
The American Medical Association, the authority on patient-physician protocol, released a statement at the conclusion of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that made it clear that professional medical standards include access to abortion care.
Furthermore, if the shelter at which the unaccompanied minor is being housed has a conflict providing such services, the rules are clear that the ORR is to provide the service another way — even going as far as to “also coordinate transportation to and from the location where the services are provided.”
In Jane Doe’s case, even after she received the necessary judicial bypass allowing her to access care without parental consent, the facility at which she’s being held refused to allow her to travel to receive her abortion.
Instead, they took her to visit a crisis pregnancy center where she was subjected to a medically unnecessary sonogram and likely counseled against the choice to have an abortion. Lori DeVillez is the founder and executive director of Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, a pro-life facility, of the same type but unrelated to Doe’s case, that provides resources for women facing unplanned pregnancies who decide to
carry to term.
“I’m not even sure why she was taken to a (crisis pregnancy resource center),” DeVillez told me regarding Doe’s case.
Emails published by the American Civil Liberties Union, straight from Scott Lloyd, blatantly support the actions of the facility. “Clinician should work to identify any pressures that might be leading her desire to termination … Along these same lines, let’s make sure she is aware of the option of having spiritual counseling that is sensitive to her religious preference,” Lloyd wrote in an email.
Lloyd’s directions, and the center’s decision to inform Doe’s mother of her choice to terminate the pregnancy, show a blatant disregard for Ms. Doe’s right to obtain an abortion.
Lloyd has no place to impose his own religious beliefs on the children in his care as a representative of the federal government. As part of the executive branch, his job is to enforce the existing laws and policies of the U.S. government, which are exceedingly clear on how his organization should conduct itself in this situation.
Lloyd and the ORR’s actions set a dangerous precedent for the right of women across the United States to have autonomy over an abortion in the first trimester.
When Whole Woman’s Health was ruled on, the AMA’s statement stated that it “opposes interference in the clinical examination room.” But they have to get there first.
MacLean is an advertising and geography junior from Austin. She is a senior columnist. Follow her on Twitter @maclean_josie.