The A.C.L.U., NARAL and their supporters across Twitter were quick to enthusiastically cheer a “victory” for “Jane Doe,” a formerly pregnant teenager from Central America being held in an immigration detention facility in Brownsville, Tex. After a number of clashing court decisions, she had been ultimately allowed to terminate a 15-week pregnancy.
Jane Doe’s plight again demonstrates the emptiness of the argument for choice when young people face circumstances that seem overwhelming. It is hard to perceive much choice in a decision to have an abortion under detention in the United States or after deportation back to Central America, or when a dream to escape poverty and violence seems overturned by an unplanned pregnancy. Would Jane Doe have a different choice if she were able to count on those who rushed to help as she sought an abortion to just as enthusiastically support her in a choice for life?
It is hard to perceive much choice in a decision to have an abortion under detention in the United States or after deportation back to Central America.
The Trump administration rightly took steps, in this instance, unsuccessfully, to prevent the United States and government employees from becoming unwilling facilitators of abortion. It should continue to pursue that principle, despite the court outcome this time. But it should also consider how its economic and immigration policies contributed to the hopelessness of this Jane Doe.
Future Jane Does should have better choices, however they have come into the United States. Abortion does not now, and cannot in the future, offer any real justice or hope in the face of the challenges this young woman and others like her face. And the injustice of abortion itself requires us to work to protect children in the womb along with their mothers.
The socioeconomic realities that young people are escaping in Central America, the violence of gangs and the lack of economic opportunity, are indeed life-crushing. The dangers they face on the way to what they believe will be a better life in North America are grim. Many young women and girls are victims of sexual assault on this dangerous journey. But young people will continue to come north, however the debate over immigration proceeds in Washington. More merciful, comprehensively pro-life policies could protect them from unnecessary risks and heart-rending decisions along the way.
The injustice of abortion itself requires us to work to protect children in the womb along with their mothers.
It is a regular if specious condemnation of the people who compose the pro-life community that they are only concerned with life until birth. That cynical presupposition ignores the reality that the men and women of the pro-life movement are the same people who open their homes to couples facing unplanned pregnancies and who staff parish food pantries, housing and homeless outreach and a myriad of other social and humanitarian services conducted informally and institutionally by the church.
Now that U.S. pro-choice advocates have achieved this self-proclaimed victory in Texas, are they going to continue to advocate for Jane Doe beyond the flash point of her right to terminate a pregnancy? Or should they too be accused of being disinterested in life after abortion?
This Jane Doe remains in detention and faces many struggles ahead. The church, both pro-life and pro-immigrant, will be ready to assist her and any future Jane Does who may, in trembling and in hope, cross U.S. borders. Will it be afforded that opportunity? Will other Jane Does be allowed to seek its help?