Australian woman Madolline Gourley was detained while passing through Los Angeles on the 30th June and subsequently questioned over her abortion history.
After spending some time housesitting in Canada, Gourley claims that US immigration officials were suspicious of her intentions, subjecting her to a pat down and interrogation before asking her to leave the country.
During the questioning, Gourley told The Guardian that she was repeatedly asked whether or not she was pregnant, before being fingerprinted, photographed and detained.
“She was walking me from one room to the next, and she asked the pregnancy question again,” she told the outlet. “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?’
“I don’t know the thought process behind that … I just thought, ‘What’s the relevance of that to my situation?’”
Gourley was later told that she would be deported back to Australia on the next flight to Brisbane on the basis that she had breached the conditions of the visa waiver program, which applies to citizens of Australia and many other countries making short visits to the US for business or tourism, but not regular employment.
Under this program, it is prohibited to house-sit in exchange for free accommodation, a rule which Gourley says she was not aware of.
Now she’s seeking to warn other Australian travellers on the restrictions to avoid anyone else being penalised.
She has since lodged complaints to the US embassy, US Homeland Security, has sent messages to her local MP, and been in contact with Australian foreign affairs minister Penny Wong.
US Customs and Border Protection have apologised to Miss Gourley for the “inconvenience or unpleasantness” she has experienced, but have also reiterated that it is standard procedure.
The situation comes just a month after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, giving independent states the right to make abortion illegal. It has only heightened mounting fears that the reproductive rights of women will be seriously jeopardised as a result.