Women’s rights activists are calling for the immediate resignation of Trump-appointed Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director Scott Lloyd, who is abusing his power over pregnant teenagers in his custody by pursuing a policy that systematically denies them access to abortion.
ORR is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for caring for undocumented minors who are taken into federal custody after crossing the border without their parents or guardians. At least four pregnant teens in ORR custody have been forced to take the administration to federal court in order to access an abortion, and there are surely more out there that the public does not know about who never got the medical care they asked for.
In 2017, there were 420 pregnant teenagers in ORR custody. Instead of bring them to comprehensive reproductive healthcare providers, ORR has been forcing pregnant teens to go to fake clinics, otherwise known as crisis pregnancy centers.
The director of ORR is required to sign off on every single medical treatment sought by teenagers in custody. Director Scott Lloyd has almost no experience with refugees but an extensive background in anti-abortion and anti-contraception activism. Lloyd has previously advocated for forcing every woman who has health care through a government program to forfeit all right to access an abortion with her own funds.
During his tenure at ORR, Lloyd has personally traveled to at least one minor in his custody to intimidate and coerce her out of having an abortion. Lloyd has even been responsible for personally denying abortions for teenagers who pregnancies are a result of rape, a clear violation of national and international law.
In court, the government has argued that if the teenagers do not want to carry their pregnancies to term, then they can “self-deport” back to their home countries. Abortion is illegal in the majority of Latin American countries.
The public first learned about the government’s unconstitutional policy several months ago, when a 17-year-old-girl–named Jane Doe in court documents–crossed the border without her parents. While being held in a Texas facility funded by ORR, Jane found out she was pregnant and immediately voiced that she needed an abortion.
Jane received financial and legal assistance from a non-profit in Texas that assists pregnant minors. They raised all of the money necessary for the procedure, and a Texas state judge approved Jane for an abortion in compliance with the judicial bypass requirements under Texas law.
But when Jane tried to leave for her first appointment–a state mandated counseling session 24 hours prior to the procedure–federal officials stepped in and instead took her to a fake health clinic, otherwise known as a crisis pregnancy center. Additionally, ORR informed Jane’s parents of her pregnancy without her consent, even though Jane had disclosed the physical abuse suffered by her sister after their parents discovered her pregnancy. Jane had to fight a multi-week court battle before the Supreme Court finally demanded that ORR allow her to have an abortion.
The Independent 1/11/18; CNN 12/20/17; Washington Post 12/20/17, 1/11/18; Newsweek 1/11/18; Feminist Newswire 10/23/17