The administration of President Donald Trump surprised many immigration activists and lawyers earlier this year by appointing a person with little experience in immigration to lead the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
What Scott Lloyd's resume did have, however, was evidence of a career dedicated to the crusade against abortion. Now at ORR, he is doing his best to continue that mission, as shown by the legal battle to prevent the abortion of undocumented Jane Doe, a 16-week pregnant woman.
Jane Doe finally had an abortion Wednesday, after an appeals court on Tuesday ordered Lloyd's department to immediately allow the minor to terminate her pregnancy, which it said was putting her life at risk.
Doe is not the only undocumented minor to have been affected by Lloyd’s anti-abortion crusade. His agency is in charge of managing the response to the massive influx of undocumented minors from Central America, and often has pregnant minors in its custody. In fiscal year 2016, 59,170 children were referred to ORR by immigration authorities.
The ACLU is aware of four such cases involving minors, including Doe.
According to emails obtained by the civil rights organization ACLU (which represented Jane Doe), upon his arrival at ORR, the new director ordered that all abortions of undocumented minors be approved by him, case by case, in essence conferring a veto power on all decisions.
"Isn’t that contrary to state law?” an ORR employee responded in one email, used by ACLU in court.
Judges have ruled that the policy is not only contrary to state law, but to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion according to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade. This protection includes minors, regardless of their legal status in the country. Although undocumented and non-citizens lack some rights (such as voting), their status does not detract from many fundamental guarantees, like abortion.
The federal government’s position "is not only unconstitutional, it is inhuman,” said Brigitte Amiri, one of the ACLU attorneys representing Doe, to Univision News.
At the time of publication, Univision had not received a response to a request for an interview with Lloyd.
Lloyd has also ordered pregnant girls to go to "pregnancy crisis centers" run by religious organizations, which activists say are notorious for giving false information about abortion.
Doe was taken to one such center, where she was forced to have a sonogram and was asked what name she was thinking of giving her baby, according to testimony provided by Jane's Due Process, a non-profit organization in Texas that helps minors who decide to have an abortion.
The ORR director traveled to visit another pregnant minor in April, seeking to dissuade her from having an abortion, according to the emails handed over by ACLU.
"What is troubling is the combination of this Lloyd agenda with the more general attempt of the Trump government to keep children in custody for a longer time," says Michelle Brané, a director of the Women's Refugee Commission.
Lloyd did not need confirmation from the Senate to take on his position at the ORR, which has a budget of $1.5 billion.
Some say his appointment is proof that Trump and his pious vice president Mike Pence are seeking to appease religious groups that supported the presidential candidate in spite of the fact that Trump does not fit the typical Christian mold.
"Politicians who oppose abortion often start with the most vulnerable groups in their attempt to obstruct this right," says ACLU attorney Amiri.
"An adopted father"
Immigration activists have been surprised by the lack of detail provided by the government about Lloyd, as evidenced by his ORR website bio.
The most contact he had with refugees was during his work as chief policy coordinator for the Knights of Columbus, a pro-life Catholic charity. At Knights of Columbus he focused on assisting Christian refugees and other minorities persecuted by the Islamic State in the Middle East.
During his law studies at Catholic University, he helped the parents of Terri Schiavo, a woman in a vegetative state, in a legal battle to stop Schiavo’s husband and guardian from removing her feeding tube.
During George W. Bush's administration, Lloyd co-authored a “conscience" regulation in 2008 to allow doctors, nurses, hospitals, and insurance companies to refuse contraceptives, abortions, or other care that violated a "religious belief or moral conviction.”
That made it so that emergency professionals could choose not to provide emergency contraception to patients in rape crisis care.
In 2010, he founded a law firm, LegalWorks Apostolate, which specializes in providing “effective representation and counsel, informed by the particular concerns of families and institutions that must navigate the ‘thickets of the law’ while remaining faithful to Church teaching.”
Over the years, Lloyd has promoted his ideas in articles published online; on the Catholic blog Ethika Politika, he wrote about his opposition to gay marriage and has described contraceptive methods as one more form of abortion.
Lloyd, who has six children, lives in Virginia. As he says in one of his articles titled " TV: No thanks," he seeks to educate them to resist the moral corruption in the modern world.
“A family that ditches TV protects its kids from countless examples of violence, vulgarity, gore, sexual content, consumerism, and stupidity,” he writes.
Lloyd continues to apply the same authority over the minors in custody in his agency’s centers. Lloyd is reported to believe the girls have a " foster father" in him.