Trump appointee Scott Lloyd, who leads the Office of Refugee Resettlement, has become obsessed with making sure young immigrant women in his custody who want abortions can’t have them.
In October a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to allow an undocumented minor in its custody to have an abortion. But this week they were back in court because the administration tried to block another two teenagers from getting abortions. On Tuesday night the Department of Justice dropped their appeals, allowing the young women to go forward with the abortions.
The original court documents identified the young women as unaccompanied minors in government-funded shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. In most cases unaccompanied minors who have been detained by immigration authorities are transferred to the custody of ORR, which claims there is no constitutional right “for an immigrant minor to have an elective abortion while in federal custody.”
According to court documents, the young women who are pregnant are “resolute in their desire to have an abortion.” (The procedures will be paid for with private funds.) But the ACLU, which has represented all three women seeking abortions, says Scott Lloyd is the government official “hell-bent” on stopping immigrants from accessing abortions.
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Lloyd has little to no experience with resettling refugees. But he does have a documented track record of telling women what to do with their bodies.
The New York Times editorial board in October called Lloyd an anti-abortion “crusader.” The Washington Post said Lloyd “built a career as a champion of religious values.”
Before his appointment as the director of the refugee agency, Lloyd was an attorney in the public policy office of the Knights of Columbus, an organization made up of “Catholic men of faith and men of charitable action.” Lloyd lives in Virginia with his wife and their six children, according to his ORR profile. Lloyd also served on the board of directors for the Front Royal Pregnancy Center, an anti-abortion counseling center.
Lloyd has no medical background, either, but that hasn’t stopped him from reportedly formalizing the ORR’s anti-abortion policies through various regulations.
There are about 5,000 unaccompanied minors in ORR’s custody. If any of them want an abortion, Lloyd has to personally sign off on the procedure. That’s unfortunate for them, given tha Lloyd said in a March email to another staffer that government-funded shelters caring for the minors “should not be supporting abortion services pre or post-release; only pregnancy services and life-affirming options counseling,” according to the Washington Post.
“He by law has custody of these children, and just like a foster parent, he knows that that’s a lot of responsibility and he is going to make choices that he thinks are best for both the mother and the child,” an HHS spokesperson told
This may explain why Lloyd makes the time to personally call and visit teenagers in detention to council them on carrying out their pregnancies to term.
Court documents accuse Lloyd of placing calls to pregnant minors to convince them to carry out their pregnancies to term. And there’s at least one reported incident of him making a personal visit to a shelter. Politico reported:
Lloyd visited a Honduran girl in a San Antonio shelter and sent an email to the shelter operator asking to accommodate her request for bananas and soup and a more comfortable mattress, according to the emails. He added that if things get “dicey” with her sponsor, a relative in the U.S., he knew families that would take her in and see her through her pregnancy and beyond.
Advocates who work with refugees told Politico it’s “unprecedented” for an ORR director to personally attempt to dissuade minors from ending a pregnancy.
The government says the teens have two options—more like ultimatums, really. They can return to the country they fled in the first place and get the abortion there, or find a sponsor who will take custody of them.
The only problem is that abortions are illegal in many of the countries that unaccompanied minors are fleeing. ORR has also acknowledged many unaccompanied minors “may have histories of abuse or may be seeking safety from threats of violence. They may have been trafficked or smuggled.”
And, according to Politico’s reporting, if things get “dicey” the government may also prevent these young women from going to sponsors who will facilitate an abortion.
Attorneys with the ACLU who are representing the young women in federal custody say they’re prepared to take on this legal battle “for as long as we need to.”
Just because the DOJ dropped their appeals this time doesn’t mean they won’t try again. State attorneys from 10 states also filed an amicus brief this week in support of the Trump Administration blocking young undocumented immigrants from getting abortions—signaling both parties are ready to take this fight to the Supreme Court.