In early September, a 17-year-old girl from Central America was apprehended trying cross the border between the United States and Mexico. After being taken to a shelter for unaccompanied minors in South Texas to await immigration proceedings, she learned she was pregnant. The girl, referred to as Jane Doe in court filings, was adamant that she wanted an abortion. Because of Texas’ parental consent law, she needed to go to court to get a judge’s permission, which she did with help from Jane’s Due Process, a nonprofit legal organization that provides representation to pregnant minors in Texas. Jane’s Due Process collected money for the procedure from local abortion funds. It was scheduled for Sept. 28, near the end of Doe’s first trimester.
Then the Trump administration stepped in. Repaying his loyal supporters on the religious right, Donald Trump has given federal appointments to a number of anti-abortion activists. They’ve been working quietly to dismantle access to reproductive health care while the country is distracted by the president’s pyrotechnic outrages. For almost a month, some of these Trump appointees have been waging a crusade to force the young woman, whose future in this country is extremely uncertain, to carry her pregnancy to term. Their standoff shows us the real-world consequences of this administration’s radical disregard for women’s autonomy.
I am far from reassured by the fact that the outcome of this case will depend on whetherBrett Kavanaugh would rather remain on the Heritage Foundation’s Supreme Court shortlist or apply the law:
The crux of the Trump administration’s argument is that it would be facilitating J.D.’s abortion if it allowed her to have one. Government officials or contractors would have to “devote time and staff towards maintaining appropriate custody over Ms. Doe during the time she would be away from the shelter,” among other things.
But, of course, there’s a glaring problem with this argument. The only reason why J.D. cannot simply walk into an abortion clinic herself is that she is being held prisoner by the government. If that doesn’t constitute a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus,” then it’s hard to imagine that anything does.
In response to this reality, the Justice Department told the three judges hearing this case that J.D. could always agree to voluntarily leave the country — an argument that effectively forces her to choose between giving up her right to press her immigration case and carrying her pregnancy to term against her will. Meanwhile, there’s no guarantee that she would even be able to obtain an abortion in her home nation.
The outcome of the case — or, at least, the outcome of the panel’s vote — is likely to hinge on Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a conservative George W. Bush appointee who is widely viewed as a possible Supreme Court nominee in a Republican administration. Judge Karen Henderson’s questions at oral argument suggested that she was a likely vote for the government. Meanwhile, Judge Patricia Millett appeared highly skeptical of the government’s arguments.
Kavanaugh, meanwhile, seemed eager to make this case go away. He asked again and again about whether a sponsor could be found to take custody of J.D., effectively mooting the case in the process.
Still, Hillary Clinton would not have unilaterally banned GMOs so really there was not a nickel’s worth of difference.