Health Care

Trump’s health chief backs HHS official at center of abortion suit

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Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar indicated Thursday he would not fire Scott Lloyd, the HHS official who has tried to block unaccompanied immigrant minors in U.S. custody from getting abortions.

Asked by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) when Azar would fire Lloyd, Azar replied: “This is simply not an issue of Mr. Lloyd. This is the statutory obligation of the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to coordinate and improve the care of placement of these minors, including providing for serious medical services to them.”

{mosads}Lloyd has been at the center of a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed against HHS for its policy of denying abortions to unaccompanied immigrants in the care of the ORR.

While calls for Lloyd’s dismissal among Democrats have intensified, Azar said that would not happen.

“So you’re not going to do that and you’re going to put their health in jeopardy?” DeLauro asked Azar at the House Appropriations hearing Thursday morning.

“I certainly appreciate any concerns you have, but I do want to make very clear this is not about Mr. Lloyd. This is about long-standing policy and procedures,” Azar replied.

The ACLU has battled the Trump administration over the policy, representing four pregnant unaccompanied minors who had been blocked from getting abortions. 

In three cases, the girls were able to get abortions while the fourth was released to a sponsor. 

Under previous administrations, the ORR director only had to sign off on abortions when federal funds were requested for the procedure, often in cases of rape or incest.

The policy under the Trump administration says that all requests require the approval of the ORR director, unless the minor’s life is in danger.

According to depositions, the ORR has denied seven abortion requests from pregnant minors between March 2017 and Dec. 19, 2017, including one that was the result of rape. Lloyd has also said he has never approved an abortion request while at the ORR.

Democrats argue that Lloyd, a former attorney for the Knights of Columbus, should not have that kind of power because he is not a medical doctor. They also argue that it’s unconstitutional for the ORR to prevent the girls from getting abortions.

“Scott Lloyd is not a doctor. He is a lawyer. I have high regard for lawyers, but he is not a medical doctor,” DeLauro said. “In my view, he has shown disrespect for the Constitution, overstepped the boundaries, abused his authority and forced his own personal beliefs on immigrant women.”

Lloyd’s actions have the support of Republicans and anti-abortion groups, who argue that allowing unaccompanied minors access to abortion would turn the U.S. into a sanctuary nation for abortions.

“Thank you @SecAzar for standing with Scott Lloyd… to affirm his decision to ensure undocumented immigrant mothers receive real healthcare and the U.S. does not become an abortion sanctuary nation,” tweeted the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group in D.C.

Tags Rosa DeLauro

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