U.S. Immigration Deports Woman After Repeatedly Asking If She’d Had An Abortion

U.S. immigration deported an Australian woman after repeatedly asking her whether she’s had an abortion. They suspected her of planning to cat sit while vacationing in Canada as well as on a future visit to the U.S.

She should have just flown Air Canada directly, skipping the U.S. entirely. The U.S. is an inconvenient place for even an international connection since passengers are required to enter the U.S. to connect, which means clearing immigration rather than staying in a ‘sterile’ part of the airport. And that means non-U.S. residents need to obtain permission to enter (whether a Visa or Visa-alternative like an ESTA) just to connect.

The woman, a resident of Brisbane, arrived at LAX on June 30. And that’s where she was detained.

At one point a US border official asked Gourley, who was wearing a loose-fitting dress, whether she was pregnant. The same question was repeated as she was moved between rooms. When she again told the US officials she was not pregnant, Gourley was asked whether she had had an abortion.

“She was walking me from one room to the next, and she asked the pregnancy question again,” Gourley told Guardian Australia. “I don’t know if she had forgotten, or she wanted to work out if I was lying or something. “I said no, and she looked at me again and said, ‘Have you recently had an abortion?’

After being repeatedly asked about her abortion history, she was deported because she was deemed ineligible to enter the Unites States under the Visa Waiver Program. She planned to cat sit not just in Canada but after her visit to Canada when she returned to the U.S. before flying home to Australia.

It was determined that her plan to cat-sit ,I>in the future in exchange for accommodations constituted employment, and that was prohibited under the terms of her entry. (It wasn’t enough to tell her she wouldn’t be allowed to cat sit, the mere fact that she intended to do so in the future made her inadmissible under the terms of the Visa Waiver program.)

Apparently U.S. officials monitor activity on the website TrustedHouseSitters.com. And they were suspicious that she didn’t have her connecting boarding passes from LA to Philadelphia and on to Montreal printed already, even though this is quite common. That made them wonder if she might plan to cat sit in the U.S. immediately, too. To the government that looked like the woman was planning to stay in the U.S.

Australia’s foreign minister finds this reprehensible – both the regulations for transit, as well as the repeated questioning about abortion. And she believes the passenger is due an apology, and “clarification on how this impacts her future travel to the US.”

When asked, U.S. Customs and Border Protection offered a milquetoast statement that they do not allow misconduct but no opinion on whether misconduct occurred here,

“CBP regrets any inconvenience or unpleasantness a passenger may have experienced during his/her CBP processing,” the spokesperson said. “We take allegations of unprofessional behavior seriously. CBP has standard procedures for handling allegations of misconduct. If we confirm employee misconduct, we will take firm and appropriate action to correct the situation.”

U.S. immigration has built up almost unchecked power. They are building a central repository of passenger emails which they plan to keep for 75 years. Their authority doesn’t just exist at the border, or over passengers entering the country. In fact their power extends 100 miles inland, covering two thirds of the population. I covered the arrest of two women for speaking Spanish… at a Montana convenience store.

Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land in the U.S. It wouldn’t have protected the privacy rights of an Australian woman at the border from being questioned about abortion by the government anyway.

(HT: Paul H)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ll hold my opinion until all the facts are in. Why would the Biden Administration, which opposes the Supreme Court decision, start questioning a woman about abortion? Even if it’s some rogue CBP operation, that would be grounds for termination. I suspect there are cameras everywhere, so they can find out what happened.

    Something doesn’t add up here.

  2. She was detained then denied entry. Being deported means she was in the US then subsequently put into removal proceedings. They also ask you a series of questions (in addition to the abortion question) to determine whether you will require medical attention during your detention. There’s a really boring non-story here trying to be a controversial story and you’re helping to make it happen.

    I can’t tell if you write stuff like this in bad faith or if you’re just retarded. You seem to straddle that line so masterfully.

  3. I smell bull shit in this story!

    This is a feeble attempt at stirring drama where there is not really any to be found. But who cares, lets not let a good lie go to waste.

  4. If she answered “yes” to having had an abortion, presumably in Australia, why would that be grounds to deport her? Reminder; abortion is permitted under both federal and California law.

  5. Maybe the CBP person was supposed to ask if she was an aborigine and misread the list of questions. That makes as much sense as any other version of this weird story.

  6. Thats a mighty long way to go to “cat sit”. So she had an obviously bullshit story then was deemed inadmissible and denied entry to the US. I do believe CBP inquiring about about pregnancy. She was probably fat and looked pregnant (ever hear the term anchor baby)…either that or she looked like she had a couple thousand fentanyl pills strapped to her stomach… Either way, she was pissed she was turned away so the next best thing is to cry to the media. Abortion is a good way to get clicks these days. She also could have said that CBP asked her if she planned to change her gender to one of the other 72 ones or if she planned to marry a black man.

  7. We’ve got to keep the borders safe. Who knows where cat-sitting might lead? Especially by someone who might have had an abortion. The evil of these pesky Aussies knows no bounds. Through the courageous actions of the CBP we are all being kept safe from all manner of atrocities. It’s just such a shame we don’t feel safe on our own streets or in our own schools. Quick, let’s deport some people who have engaged in other delinquent practices such as practicing birth control or vaguely dreaming of working in the movies.

  8. Due to US birthright law it is actually a standard question to ask any woman immigrant of childbearing age if she is pregnant and that can be grounds to refuse entry if officers suspect the woman is doing birth tourism.

    Have seen this happen a few times when in secondary screening areas.

    This person’s profile unfortunately matched a typical birth tourist, young female connecting through US for a dubious reason in loose clothing

  9. I’ll have to remember to have someone fly 7,000 miles to dog sit my chihuahua.

  10. The story really grabs your attention, but once you dig into the details, it’s not that crazy of a story after all. Interesting though about the birth tourism.

  11. The ones commenting with crap. You do know it’s easy to find the actual news articles about this? She repeatedly asked about abortion, light airy/baggy clothes she was wearing were indicative of pregnancy to the person and Canada is a safe place to have an abortion and all sorts of other absolute utter Handmaidens Tail BS adds another we “Want to visit…but maybe wait until you Adults take charge and actually change things for good”

  12. Sometimes, it’s women coming to the US to work for a short time as a prostitute.

    As far as working, I would be ok with a complete freedom of movement between certain economically similar countries. For example, Australia / Japan / USA / Canada / UK. Any American could go to one of those countries and work.

  13. @ Gary

    You might clarify how the visa waiver program defines visits to adjacent non-USA jurisdiction to stem the many ignorant comments above:

    “…VWP, time spent in Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands counts towards the maximum of 90 days stay allowed under the program…”

    In other words, the US is trying to limit entry to travellers who are en route to another country and making adjudications based on what they are doing in that country.

    There have been one or two other recent cases which received publicity in Australia, including one chap who was also en route to Mexico – he was unable to prove onward travel arrangements subsequent to Mexico and since Mexico borders the US in the eyes of US immigration officers he was ineligible to enter the US, strip searched, held, and deported.

    It has been claimed by local media in Australia that the US Government has failed to state certain rules on their website pertaining to the VWP and some visitors are being unintentionally caught out – notably about proving onward travel from adjoining countries subsequent to departure from the US .

    The VWP itself is questionable in that it requires the applicant to waiver their legal rights to challenge decisions made by immigration officers.

    None of this helps the image of the US here in Australia, where the country has had repeated negative coverage of the abortion ruling, the incessant mass shootings, and the nation’s incipient racism. It’s not a good look – arrogant, authoritarian and uncivilised.

    Now if housesitting /catting is considered employment because it has some material advantage (free accommodation), where does that leave an innocent stay at the residence of family or friends (also free accommodation and possibly free food) – add on visiting a sick or disabled or aged family member or friend, wherein the visitor assists in the care and where would the visitor stand?!

  14. Meanwhile they let entire caravans of migrants walk across the border because they are “asylum seekers”.

  15. The number one issue affecting this country isn’t gun violence or abortion or Covid or inflation. It’s the 2 million illegal immigrants allowed to walk across the border every year. At what point do you say OK enough, when it’s 10 million or 20 million?

  16. If she just said she was seeking asylum, she would have been given a voter registration card, a welfare check and a section 8 voucher. Abortion optional.

  17. There’s something wrong with this gal’s story. I’m simply connecting in the US but I don’t have my connecting boarding pass?

    It sounds like the story about a different gal who missed her Spirit flight out of LAS because it left an hour early. She arrived at the gate an hour early but the flight left early and she just missed it.

  18. To the commenters:

    1) Australians aren’t teeming to get into this country. Theirs is pretty awesome (though full of really weird wildlife). So “fitting the profile” of an anchor baby-mama…nope. And traveling prostitute? Wow, that’s pretty far out there. That’s a pretty small, elite type of tourist to screen for.
    2) Exchanging petsitting for a free place to stay is a real thing. I’ve done it half a dozen times in England and here in the US. Australia has a significant presence on these sites, eg. TrustedHousesitters.
    3) I totally agree that this whole story sounds really off. Though those TSA agents have been known to power-trip, so there’s that.

  19. 100% bs. Girl is upset because she was denied and making this up. We should just slap the 10 year ban on her.

  20. Abortion is healthcare and we have no moral right, even in the name of Homeland Security, to question any person on their personal healthcare history.

    The power given to Immigration officers in the United States is disgraceful and I am sure will become a flashpoint in political debates once the dust settles on the current topics.

    It’ll be very easy for Democrats to win. They just need to fund overseas travel for Republicans, most of whom have never left the country. Republican US Citizens might be shocked to discover the following upon return to this country they proclaim to be so proud of living in.

    No warrant, suspicion, or justification is needed for officers to:

    — Seize all personal belongings;
    — Forcibly decrypt all password protected electronics and browse its contents on the spot;
    — Deny phone and internet access;
    — Deny the ability to record audio, photo, or video;
    — Ask any question, however personal or immaterial to Homeland Security, and use abusive techniques to coerce an answer.

    Officers probably don’t have a true legal right to do any or all of the above but US Customs asserts the power and Courts have never challenged it in any meaningful way. De facto, a US Citizen’s only right at the border is not to be denied entry. The Citizen may have to walk out of the FIS completely naked, at which point municipal police may arrest the Citizen for indecent exposure, at which point the Citizen will be taken to jail.

    When Republicans face the above circumstances and find out that it’s all “legal” they will quickly switch their votes to Democrat. The Grand Old Party will at last be consigned to the most dirty and shameful ash heap of American history.

  21. @ Reno Joe says:

    “There’s something wrong with this gal’s story. I’m simply connecting in the US but I don’t have my connecting boarding pass?”

    Why is the lack of a boarding pass a problem? According to @ Gary in the article above this is not unusual.

    The traveller had a ticket through to a final destination of Montreal. The traveller had a return ticket back to Australia.

    Unlike the transit procedures other countries the international traveller has to pass through US customs and immigration before accessing their connecting flight meaning landslide check in is easily accessible.

    The original article cites the involvement of the travellers’ local Member of Parliament. I doubt that an Australian politician would involve themselves and make public statements unless they had satisfied themselves that ther were reasonable grounds to make public comment.

    The traveller cannot pursue the matter legally since she would have wavered such in her visa waiver application.

    Her only available recourse is complaint – making the issue public is treasonable given that rules are being applied which are not clearly articulated to the traveller before committing to the trip.

    Would you have imagined that house sitting would be defined as income, if this story hadn’t been publicised?!

  22. Sounds to me like someone in CBP wanted to treat her as if she were a drug smuggler whom they assumed may have swallowed drugs and/or was pretending to be pregnant or “rotund” to hide smuggling drugs on and/or in the body.

    If she had claimed to have had an abortion, they may have sent her for an x-ray and/or even vaginal cavity inspection.

  23. A key point is in an introductory paragraph – avoid connecting in the United States if at all possible if not a U.S. citizen. Not only are there unprofessional agents like these, it is inconvenient, and costs time and money. The inability to connect seamlessly through a sterile part of the airport is, fortunately, not the case many places with modern airports an customer friendly attitude.

  24. @Actual Statistician

    “Abortion is healthcare and we have no moral right, even in the name of Homeland Security, to question any person on their personal healthcare history.”

    You’re absolutely right. Abortion history is medical history, and as such, it is protected under HIPAA. Vaccination history is also medical history, and yet for the past 2 years, we’ve been screamed at to show medical documentation just to travel, enter a place of business, to conduct commerce, even just to socialize.

    I dont think the violations to our HIPAA rights started with this CBP line of questioning on abortion history, much less with “Trump.” And it wont end with a “Democratic party savior” either.

  25. And since we now know that men can give birth too, it should be asked of men as well.

  26. This is one of those “news” articles that is clearly reporting with a goal in mind, so additional facts that might explain the situation are in short supply. First of all, denied entry doesn’t equal deported. Secondly, anchor babies are a real problem, and flying into the west coast is the typical path. While it is never polite in the “real world” to ask if a woman is fat or pregnant, this is absolutely a question that immigration officers will want to ask. Thirdly, it may come as a shock that loose-fitting clothing can be used to conceal smuggled drugs, which may have been swallowed. If she were recently pregnant, that would explain loose-fitting clothing. And finally, employment doesn’t mean that you were paid cash for work. While she was stopped at the US border, she’d have been equally inadmissible to Canada.

  27. The 100 mile myth just won’t die.

    Yet people routinely pay attorneys to hear them parrot nonsense like that.

    The 100 air mile rule has to do with immigration checkpoints on the road as authorized by statute in the INA. And they are not the same as a port of entry whatsoever.

  28. I’ve used Trusted Housesitters several times with good results. Basically its a way to pair people who want to travel and like animals with people who want in-home pet sitting. Sitters and owners pay to be on the site , but the sits are “free” to both the owner and the sitter. I never really considered this arrangement a form of employment though. My sitters have been primarily digital nomads who just want to see new cities/places affordably. I guess technically the free lodging is “compensation” for animal care but that argument seems weak to me. I will say that when considering sitters, I put a lot of weight into where they are coming from and have stayed away from people coming from overseas because of a fear of problems in getting to my home. Mostly this fear was COVID related but this situation puts a new spin on that risk.

    The abortion/pregnancy angle confuses me and I think we are missing some facts.

  29. 1/ This woman already has a full-time M-F job in Brisbane (from which she draws to fund her travel and living expenses), so why would she be seeking work in in the US?
    2/ Why would an Aussie want to give birth in the US? The Aussie standard of living and citizenship ranks higher than US on a global scale.
    3/ Is petsitting or housesitting prohibited in the US? Assuming one is volunteering, of course.

    My 20-something daughter is a US citizen, born and raised here, Caucasian and fluent English speaker. She has been detained numerous times upon returning to the US because she looks ‘nervous’. Hell, yes, why wouldn’t she be nervous if every time she steps foot off the airplane she is detained in a room and grilled all sorts of questions? Not only that, she suffers from Anxiety and Panic Disorder! She’s been informed by her doctor to henceforth carry a physician’s letter stating that she has severe anxiety; we’ll see how this ida pans out. My guess is the agents will jsut give her an even more difficult time. .

    It makes me really angry to see this in the US!

  30. There’s more to this story, I’m sure. The headline of this post could also be written as “Catsitter denied entry to US” but then no one would click on it.

  31. Something smells fishy with the story.

    @Actual Statistician
    Your thong is gonna be really twisted come November.

  32. Getting Canadian citizenship is in my opinion better than US citizenship as healthcare is free in Canada. So what are the benefits for the baby to be born in the US vs Canada? Carrying a Canadian passport is also less trouble than a US passport. Try to go to Cuba with a US passport.

  33. A friend’s mother came to the U.S. to help her with her newborn baby. U.S. immigration officials gave her a hard time at the airport because they said that by helping her daughter take care of the baby, she was “working” in the U.S., without a work permit/work visa. Ultimately, they relented.

  34. @Actual Statistician

    Another far left liberal racist.

    If abortion is healthcare then slavery is guest worker program.

    The gop has always been on the right side of history. The democrat party had been the party of pedophiles, child murder, terrorism and slavery since it’s start.

    People who vote for the democrat party are stuck on stupid because the leaders of the democrat party easily manipulate their voters with class warfare and identity politics.

  35. Koggerj- You are right on in your comments,,Nick too but Actual Stat are you smoking crack??? or what

  36. Crazy cat lady wahman makes up an abortion story, defames the people protecting the homeland. Okay lady.

  37. @Platy seems to defend AU customs while decrying US immigration. I defend neither and repeat every government has people like this. Why would an AU woman want to sneak into the US at all let alone to have an abortion.

  38. Birther tourism? So what. She wasn’t transiting the US for that purpose. She wasn’t even going to Canada for that purpose. Abortion tourism? It’s not illegal where she went and was to go on this trip.

    The Australian woman is a little alternative, and to the right-of-center CBP, she was probably perceived as a leftist. She is a writer for some online publications that push news stories of various sorts, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that her experience got attention. But this happens way more often than just to her.

    I am finding more and more foreign travelers who seem to be picking trips to Canada instead of the US when previously otherwise the US was their preferred destination.

    CBP has too many jerks in its rank and file. CBP’s Canadian equivalent, in the CBSA, are too often also trying to do much of the same kind of junk as the CBP does. But otherwise Canada is seen as being a friendlier version of America with less extremism and gun violence than the US, so it shouldn’t be surprising that at least some people make travel plans with this kind of stuff in mind.

  39. @Jack the Lad

    “@Platy seems to defend AU customs while decrying US immigration. I defend neither and repeat every government has people like this.”

    You have failed to grasp the difference.

    (1) Transparency.

    In the US case, the transit to an adjoining country rules are not transparent. Travellers get caught out because the rules are not stated clearly on the US government website.

    In the Australian case, the rules are very clearly and repeatedly stated to the traveller. You must declare certain items on a quarantine form. You are given the form to fill. The requisite fines for perjuring yourself (like apparently did yourself) are transparent – they are stated in the relevant legislation.

    Australia – WIN:
    USA – FAIL

    (2) Accountability

    In the US case, the traveller cannot legally challenge the decision of the immigration officer. They have wavered that right when they appleid for the Visa Waiver. Their rights have been denied to them.

    In the Australian case, the traveller can challenge the decision of the quarantine officer, if they believe that the system of penalty units and fines has been misapplied. (They can also make a legal challenge if the immigration officers try to stop their entry or deport them).

    Australia – WIN:
    USA – FAIL

    “Why would an AU woman want to sneak into the US at all let alone to have an abortion.”

    EH? They didn’t ask her if she was on her way to have an abortion. They asked her if she had had one already.

    In any case, the abortion question isn’t the real problem. The US immigration officers determined that the woman was intending to house sit in another country (Canada), that that constituted income (when it didn’t), and that broke some rules, which isn’t clearly stated.


  40. @ Platy

    Agree with you fully regarding US immigration system. In my view courts should have jurisdiction over any act by any US official, incl. consular corps.

    You have repeatedly stated that I apparently perjured myself on AU customs forms. The forms provide you need to declare if you are over the duty free weight. I was under the duty free weight. I had been pre-inspected. Customs officer refused to accept that, was apparently ignorant of pre-inspection, vented himself on me in the way you folks have, and when finally gave way to my insistence on weighing, was begrudging and threatening.

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