The crusade by Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director Scott Lloyd to prevent undocumented immigrant teens from accessing abortion services while in U.S. custody received yet another legal setback on Friday.
U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ordered the government to stop blocking access by immigrant teens to abortion services while a class action lawsuit proceeds. That lawsuit can now continue “on behalf of any other teens who have crossed the border illegally and while in federal custody may want to seek abortion services,” according to The Washington Post.
The government says about 420 pregnant unaccompanied minors were in federal custody last year, with 18 who sought abortions. Led by Lloyd’s efforts to block these pregnant teens from accessing even minimal information about abortions, the Trump administration’s activities on the issue likely are unconstitutional, the district judge said.
The temporary injunction applies to Lloyd, Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, and Acting Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families Steve Wagner, among others.
Lloyd had argued that the young women do not have a constitutional right to access abortion services. Since last year, the American Civil Liberties Union has represented multiple teens affected by the ORR’s new policy. Before the judge’s order on Friday, anyone in ORR custody needed Lloyd’s personal approval to access an abortion or even objective counseling.
Lloyd had made clear that he staunchly opposes abortion, even in the case of rape. In one case, Lloyd had discussed with staff the possibility of halting an abortion by an undocumented teen in the agency’s care with an experimental and unproven procedure known as “abortion reversal.”
“While ORR and its director are certainly entitled to maintain an interest in fetal life, and even to prefer that pregnant UC [unaccompanied immigrant minor children] in ORR custody choose one course over the other, ORR may not create or implement any policy that strips UCs of their right to make their own reproductive choices,” Chutkan wrote, according to The Hill.
Several advocacy groups and lawmakers have been trying for months to get Lloyd removed from his position at the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the ORR. Last month, protesters held a rally at HHS to deliver hundreds of thousands of signatures calling for Lloyd either to resign or to be fired.
This is not Lloyd and his representatives’ first defeat in court, and likely it won’t be their last. “Surely the mere act of entry into the United States without documentation does not mean that an immigrant’s body is no longer her or his own. Nor can the sanction for unlawful entry be forcing a child to have a baby,” federal judge Patricia Millett wrote in a previous ruling.