- Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, was the Trump administration official behind the Jane Doe case, in which the government refused to let an undocumented teen get an abortion. Lloyd has written op-eds calling for “savvy state legislators” to pass laws requiring women to get permission from the father before they get an abortion. He faced hard questions from Democrats when he appeared before the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security on Thursday.
The man behind the Trump administration’s legal battle to keep an undocumented teen from getting an abortion has a long history of campaigning against reproductive rights.
On Thursday morning, Scott Lloyd testified before the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. As the director of the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, he oversees the agency responsible for the children’s center in Texas where the 17-year-old Jane Doe was detained after she entered the US illegally from Central America.
Lloyd sent an email directing government detention centers under his purview not to let minors access abortion services, but instead take them to “pregnancy services and life-affirming options counseling”, according to The Washington Post. Lloyd wrote that the ORR “should not be supporting abortion services pre or post-release.”
‘They put this guy in charge?’
At the hearing, Democratic representatives had hard questions for him – few of which he answered – while the Republicans largely praised him and the other officials present for the Trump administration’s stricter refugee vetting protocols.
Many of those questions were about Lloyd’s hand in the Jane Doe case. After a month-long legal battle, she was finally able to get her abortion on Wednesday.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas asked Lloyd if he had any direct contact with Doe, or any of the other pregnant minors his agency is responsible for, and he wouldn’t answer, saying he couldn’t comment on individual cases.
When she asked him if he was aware that 60% of female refugees crossing the US border from Central America are raped, and would likely need medical attention including abortions, Lloyd said he “wasn’t aware” of that statistic. It comes from an Amnesty International report, and other investigations have found the number may be even higher.
“It’s disturbing that Director Lloyd didn’t seem to understand the US Constitution and was unable to answer simple questions from members of the committee,” Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, said in a statement to Business Insider after the hearing. “And they put this guy in charge?”
In another case from March, according to reports from The New York Times and Buzzfeed News, Lloyd directed shelter officials to stop another pregnant minor under ORR care from taking the second pill for a medication abortion.
The American Civil Liberties Union also alleges that Lloyd “personally visited a young woman who was seeking an abortion to attempt to dissuade her from her decision.” HHS did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Jackson Lee told Business Insider that she planned to draft a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to clarify how immigrant women are treated, how pregnant minors like Doe are treated, and how he thinks they should be treated under his policies. Asked about Lloyd’s views on abortion and his actions, Jackson Lee said he was an “example of the leadership of President Trump.”
“The public servants who welcome the offer to serve, they serve,” she said. “It is the policies of this administration that I oppose vigorously, and his persons whom he has selected are in fact representative of what I believe is a truly inhumane policy. It is President Trump who has to change those policies.”
At the hearing, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington asked Lloyd if he was trained to provide counseling or medical services, and what expertise he had to make him qualified to decide whether Doe should end her pregnancy. Lloyd’s agency bio says he is an attorney licensed in Virginia.
“It’s extremely troubling to me, Mr. Lloyd, what’s happening,” she concluded at the hearing. “I think you’re far overreaching over your expertise or your jurisdiction.”
A history of anti-abortion efforts
As right-leaning Breitbart News wrote in April, “Lloyd’s appointment came with little fanfare and almost went unnoticed.”
He came to the Trump administration from the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization where he served as an attorney in public policy.
Before that, Lloyd served on the board of directors for a crisis pregnancy center, which offer ultrasounds and counsels women to consider adoptions or becoming a mother, often actively discouraging them from getting abortions. The center in Virginia that Lloyd was involved with mentions a “medical director” and employs a registered nurse, but doesn’t list any doctors or OB/GYNs on staff.
Lloyd worked on Capitol Hill and as an HHS lawyer for the Bush administration, when he co-authored the controversial “conscience rule” in 2008 that allowed healthcare providers to refuse to provide abortions, contraception, end-of-life care, infertility treatments, or family planning care.
When they learned of Lloyd’s interference with women’s decisions to get abortions as ORR directors, Democratic Sens. Patty Murray, Diane Feinstein, Richard Blumenthal, and Bob Menendez sent a letter to the acting HHS secretary on October 20 calling “to immediately cease all undue and improper interference in the health care decisions of young women” under HHS care.
Over 100 organizations, including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, sent a letter on October 25 denouncing Lloyd’s actions.
“By blocking Jane and others from accessing abortion care, ORR has openly disregarded its legal duty to provide prompt access to safe medical care to those within its charge,” the letter read.
Rep. Lofgren and Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas sent HHS a letter on October 16 demanding that ORR stop preventing women from getting abortions and requesting more information about Lloyd’s direct involvement in the reported cases.
“Regardless of the administration’s views on abortion,” they wrote, “the Constitution protects abortion access and it remains the law of the land.”
‘Women must notify the men of their decision to abort’
Lloyd has written extensively on abortion, contraception, and other reproductive healthcare that he opposes on religious grounds.
In a blog post from 2011, which Buzzfeed noted, Lloyd called for “savvy state legislators” to require women to get the father’s permission before getting an abortion, thus restoring “men’s rights” as long as the women didn’t “lie.”
“They could do this by writing a law that says essentially that women must notify the men of their decision to abort, and gain their consent, except in situations where their reasons for aborting relate to the physical realities of pregnancy,” he wrote.
- REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
This type of statute isn’t law anywhere yet, but lawmakers in Oklahoma proposed a bill this year that would require the father’s permission for a woman to get an abortion. Non-invasive paternity tests are only available after eight weeks into pregnancy, which would be the earliest women could scientifically confirm who they would need to get permission from before aborting.
In 2011, Lloyd wrote another blog post outlining what constituted as an abortion, including birth control in his definition.
“Our tax dollars are being used to help trick people into aborting their own children, when they would not do so if someone was not lying to them,” he wrote.
Writing about embryonic stem cell research in 2006, Lloyd wrote, “This is just the latest manifestation of a process that began when the medical field sold its healing soul for a new, abortive reality, when medicine taught women to rely on chemicals rather than their wills to avoid pregnancy, and men learned to expect (or even demand) them to do so, and when medicine invited us to trade sex and adoption for the Petri dish.”
The website is no longer available, but archived web pages show Lloyd likely founded it with other law students in 2006 who “were enjoying a couple beers at a bar and we had an idea.” They wrote that “the end of abortion depends on YOU,” and sold pins and T-shirts to fund their efforts and spread their message.
Watch the full House subcommittee hearing below: