Advocacy organizations are calling for the removal of Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director Scott Lloyd after previously-sealed court documents were made public today in which Lloyd seems to assert there should be a rape exception beyond the scope of federal law.
Released on Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the documents relate to a case involving an unaccompanied immigrant minor in ORR custody who requested an abortion for a pregnancy that was the result of rape. She rescinded her decision soon after because her mother, who was a potential sponsor, threatened to “beat” her if she moved forward with her decision. The teen was forced by ORR to have an “information session,” where she was “imparted [with] information about fetal development.” The teen subsequently made it clear that she wanted to move forward with abortion care and threatened to harm herself if she did not obtain it.
In response, Lloyd wrote in a memo about the case that he was “convinced that assisting with an abortion in this case is not in her best interest,” the documents show. Because the young woman in question was 22 weeks pregnant, Lloyd said that the dilation and evacuation method of abortion that would be used to terminate her pregnancy is one “that even many abortionists find troublesome” and one whose ultimate goal is the “destruction of another human being.”
In fact, dilation and evacuation is a safe procedure and the one most commonly used for second-trimester abortions.
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“I am mindful that abortion is offered by some as a solution to a rape,” Lloyd wrote in his decision not to grant the teen’s request for abortion. “In fact, some would suggest that, by declining to assist in the abortion we are in some way engaging in a form of violence against the mother, as in the notion that ORR is forcing her to carry her pregnancy to term. I disagree …. To decline to assist in an abortion here is to decline to participate in violence against an innocent life. She remains pregnant, but this is not the intent of our actions. Moral and criminal responsibility for the pregnancy lies with the attacker, and no one else.”
Many of the girls and young women in ORR’s care are pregnant as a result of being raped on their journey to the United States. Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, previously told Rewire that the stats for unaccompanied immigrant minors are similar to those of other migrant women. Eighty percent of Central American women crossing Mexico en route to the United States are raped along the way, according to a 2014 report from Splinter.
Lloyd, an anti-choice radical, has emerged as a staunch opponent of reproductive rights in an administration full of similar ideologues. Nothing in his background indicates Lloyd is qualified or equipped to lead ORR or to “counsel” pregnant people in ORR custody against seeking abortion care, which he admitted to doing when speaking to the Christian Broadcasting Network. Advocates see Lloyd as an ideological pick by the Trump administration as it ushers “anti-choice fanaticism” into the immigration system and that Lloyd himself is “fixated on the reproductive capacity of adolescent refugees” and behaves as “part Handmaid’s Tale, part Nazi doctor.” Lloyd’s personal beliefs mirror those of anti-choice extremists and men’s rights activists, as evidenced by his published writings.
Emails released by the ACLU as part of court proceedings also reveal how deeply entrenched anti-choice extremism has become within ORR.
In October, the government watchdog group Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint against Lloyd and released a statement calling on the Virginia State Bar to investigate whether Lloyd has violated the Virginia State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct. Planned Parenthood announced Thursday that it was calling for Lloyd’s removal from office.
“This memo makes clear that Scott Lloyd should immediately be removed from his position as director of ORR. He is unfit to serve in government. Lloyd is imposing his personal beliefs on the young women in his agency’s care—to control their bodies and violate their constitutional rights. His overreach and abuse of power puts these young women’s lives in danger,” read a statement from Dana Singiser, vice president of public policy and government affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “[T]he administration should take steps to reverse this unconstitutional policy. Every woman should have control over their own bodies, health and lives, including access to abortion, regardless of her immigration status. Rather than respect this fundamental principle, the Trump administration continues to pursue an ideological and unconstitutional policy.”
The documents revealed today were filed by the federal government as part of Garza v. Hargan, a class action suit filed by the ACLU on behalf of unaccompanied immigrant minors in ORR custody being blocked from accessing abortion care. These are minors like Jane Doe, who was “held hostage” by ORR this fall for requesting an abortion. This week, the cases of Jane Roe and Jane Poe emerged, two immigrant teens who were also being denied access to care under Lloyd’s leadership. The Trump administration lost its attempt to force the teens to carry unwanted pregnancies.
Under President Trump, conditions have seemingly worsened for girls and women in federal immigration custody. In a court hearing for Jane Doe, an attorney for the Department of Justice revealed that ORR maintains an interest in “fetal life and child birth.” This provided insight into a new policy implemented by the Trump administration in March, which “allows [shelters] to wield an unconstitutional veto power over unaccompanied immigrant minors’ access to abortion,” according to court documents. This directive prevents unaccompanied immigrant minors in ORR’s care from obtaining abortion care by prohibiting federally funded shelters from taking “’any action that facilitates’ abortion access to unaccompanied minors in their care without ‘direction and approval’” from Lloyd.
“This story continues to get more unreal. This latest revelation exposes the Trump administration’s extreme anti-abortion ideology: it seeks to force women to continue pregnancies against their will,” Amiri said in a statement. “While the path has been cleared for three Janes to get their abortions after protracted legal battles, the Office of Refugee Ressettlement’s no-abortion policy still stands, and ORR’s director, Scott Lloyd, is still enforcing it. We will continue to fight to strike down this cruel and heartless policy.”