Republicans have been attempting to bar women from getting abortions for a long time now, and the Trump administration has made it a priority to erase that right from the books. And it appears that the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement has taken it upon himself to decide what's best for immigrant teenagers who want to obtain abortions. Scott Lloyd, the OOR chief who is notoriously anti-choice himself, justified barring rape victims and immigrant minors from obtaining abortions by saying it would not be in their "best interest."
In an internal memo from Dec. 17, Lloyd, who is notoriously anti-choice himself, wrote that resorting to abortion in these cases would be an attempt "to cure violence with further violence." The memo was unsealed as part of a lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed on behalf of an immigrant teenager who he denied an abortion.
Scott wrote that an abortion “does not here cure the reality that she is the victim of an assault." He added: "It is possible, and perhaps likely, that this young woman would go on to experience an abortion as an additional trauma on top of the trauma she experiences as a result of her sexual assault.”
Lloyd has blocked at least two teenagers, one 17 years old and one 19, from getting abortions. His justification that an abortion would subject them to further trauma is, in his own words, based on "a catalogue of anecdotal evidence" and his belief that there haven't been sufficient studies on whether women feel regret after getting abortions. In fact, there have been numerous studies on women's feelings of regret after abortions — and it turns out that the overwhelming majority of women feel that they made the right decision. Just to drive that point home, women who have received abortions feel less regret after their procedures on average than patients who have undergone knee surgery.
Lloyd, however, makes no mention of these studies. "To decline to assist in an abortion here is to decline to participate in violence against an innocent life," Lloyd wrote in the newly released memo outlining his reasons for denying care to these teenagers. "Here there is no medical reason for abortion, it will not undo or erase the memory of the violence committed against her, and it may further traumatize her. I conclude it is not her interest."
Although he has control over the ORR, the courts have not found that Lloyd has any constitutional right to control these women or make decisions about their reproductive rights. In fact, after the ACLU filed a suit on behalf of one of the women, D.C. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled in the women's favor and made it possible for both of them to obtain the abortions that they were seeking.
After Lloyd's memo offering his justification became public, Planned Parenthood offered a statement about his actions to impede these women in federal custody from exercising their rights over their own bodies. “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," wrote Planned Parenthood Vice President Dana Singiser. "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."
By blocking these women's abortion rights, Lloyd was taking a markedly different stand from the previous two administrations. Under both the Obama and Bush administrations, a 2008 memo allowed federal funds to pay for abortions for minors detained as part of the immigration process if the pregnancy was a result of rape. Now that a judge has explicitly ruled he cannot block the detainees' access to abortions, it's unlikely that Lloyd will continue to impose his opinions on similar cases.