U.S. official says rape and abortion both forms of violence
In this Oct. 20, 2017, photo, activists with Planned Parenthood demonstrate outside of the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite File)
Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, December 21, 2017 6:56PM EST
HOUSTON -- The U.S. government official who oversees the agency sheltering immigrant minors says abortion and rape are both forms of "violence" in a memo released Thursday that explains why he won't allow abortions even for teenagers who have been sexually assaulted.
Scott Lloyd heads the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which faces an ongoing lawsuit over its refusal to allow teens in its care to have abortions.
Lloyd's efforts to dissuade teens in his office's care from having abortion were disclosed in previous court filings by the American Civil Liberties Union. Those filings included emails in which he offers to connect a pregnant teen with a "few good families" who would "see her through her pregnancy."
But he appears to go a step further in a memo included in a filing Thursday by the government, saying that his office has no obligation under the law or the U.S. Constitution to allow abortions for anyone in a government shelter. ORR cares for thousands of minors at a time, most of them unaccompanied children and teenagers from Central America who have entered the United States without legal permission.
The memo, dated Sunday, explains why Lloyd refused a teenager's request even though agency staff had reason to believe the minor was impregnated in a rape.
"I am mindful that abortion is offered by some as a solution to a rape," Lloyd wrote. But, he added, "implicit here are the dubious notions that it is possible to cure violence with further violence, and that the destruction of an unborn child's life can in some instances be acceptable as a means to an end.
Planned Parenthood is committed to helping immigrants get the care they need. Everyone deserves access to quality health care. Check out our Know Your Rights guide: https://t.co/dGxrUOdZG1— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) December 20, 2017
"To decline to assist in an abortion here is to decline to participate in violence against an innocent life," Lloyd said.
HHS declined to comment Thursday on whether Lloyd's memo represented the department's official policy, which would separate it from other federal immigration authorities. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement allows adult women in its custody to have abortions. ICE assumes the costs of any abortion if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.
Medicaid also covers abortion in the case of rape or incest, under government policy known as the Hyde Amendment that otherwise prohibits funding for most abortions.
While the path has been cleared for three Janes to get their abortions after protracted legal battles, ORR's no-abortion policy still stands, and Scott Lloyd is still enforcing it. Our fight to strike down this cruel and heartless policy goes on. #JusticeforJane— ACLU (@ACLU) December 21, 2017
The ACLU first sued the government on behalf of a 17-year-old teenager who was being denied an abortion. After winning an appeals court ruling that allowed that teen to have an abortion, the ACLU then returned to court over the cases of two other teens who also sought the procedure. A federal judge ruled in favour of those two this week.
Lloyd became director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in March after working for the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic group that opposes abortion.
Planned Parenthood on Thursday called for Lloyd to be fired. In a statement, the group accused Lloyd of "imposing his personal beliefs on the young women in his agency's care."