Trump official sought to block abortion for a 17-year-old rape victim

E. Scott Lloyd, who heads the Trump administration's refugee office, testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in October.
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

E. Scott Lloyd, the anti-abortion activist who heads the Trump administration’s refugee resettlement program, tried to prevent a 17-year-old rape victim in federal detention from getting an abortion, according to court documents.

Disclosure of the documents on Thursday revealed a significant escalation of the administration’s efforts to prevent immigrant teenagers in federal detention from getting abortions. In the past, anti-abortion policies have almost always included an exception for rape cases.

“I am convinced that assisting with an abortion in this case is not in her best interest,” Lloyd wrote in a memo about an immigrant minor held in a federal detention center that was released Thursday as part of a court fight over the administration’s policies.


“I am mindful that abortion is offered by some as a solution to a rape,” Lloyd wrote. “I disagree. To decline to assist in an abortion here is to decline to participate in violence against an innocent life.”

Under Lloyd, the administration has said it will not “facilitate” abortion for unaccompanied minors who are caught and held after crossing the border illegally.

The government for many years has not provided or paid for abortions. Under Lloyd, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees the detention centers for immigrant minors, has gone a step further and decreed that pregnant teenagers who are held in detention may not leave the facilities to see a doctor for an abortion without his personal approval.

Lloyd acknowledged that the teenage immigrant, known in court as Jane Poe, had become pregnant as a result of a sexual assault, and that she had “threatened to harm herself if she does not obtain” an abortion.

“At bottom, this is a question of what is in the interest of the young woman and her child. 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 traumatize her. I conclude it is not in her interest,” he wrote.

But Lloyd was apparently overruled by some of the administration’s top lawyers. On Monday evening, after a federal judge in Washington ordered the administration to allow two immigrants to leave detention to get abortions, the Justice Department did not appeal in the Jane Poe case.


She had an abortion shortly afterward, according to lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union who represented her. The procedure was paid for with private funds.

The other immigrant, whose case the administration did appeal, also got an abortion after government lawyers discovered that she was 19, not 17, and as an adult, could decide on her own.

“This latest revelation exposes the Trump administration’s extreme anti-abortion ideology,” said Brigitte Amiri, an attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “It seeks to force women to continue pregnancies against their will.”

The legal battle over whether these young detainees have a right to seek an abortion is far from resolved. Top Trump administration lawyers have been determined to get the issue before the Supreme Court.

In a previous case involving an immigrant seeking an abortion, administration lawyers on Nov. 3 filed an unusual appeal with the high court that accused the ACLU lawyers of deception and sought some punishment against them. They were upset because after U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan and the D.C. Circuit, by a 6-3 vote, ruled that a pregnant teenager, dubbed Jane Doe in court, had a right to an abortion, the woman got the procedure before the government could file a further appeal.

“This was a total surprise. We’re disturbed about it,” U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions told Fox News subsequently.


The administration’s appeal in the case of Hargan vs. Garza is still pending in the Supreme Court and is due to be considered on Jan. 5.

Twitter: DavidGSavage