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Liberals seek ouster of HHS official blocking abortions

Liberals seek ouster of HHS official blocking abortions
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Democrats and liberal groups have ramped up their calls for the resignation of Scott Lloyd, the Trump administration health official who has tried to block multiple unaccompanied immigrant minors from receiving abortions. 

As more details surface about Lloyd’s role at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in denying abortions for these minors in the custody of the U.S., groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America and All Above All have launched campaigns demanding he resign or be fired.

“We really want to send the message that any attempts to take away abortion and deny abortion for any woman, rich or poor, whether she is an immigrant or otherwise, will be met with strong resistance, and we’re not giving up,” said Ravina Daphtary, director of state strategies for All Above All.

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Daphtary’s organization and other advocacy groups delivered petitions with 250,000 signatures to HHS Thursday calling for Lloyd’s removal. 

Equity Forward, which describes itself a reproductive health watchdog group, this week launched a six-figure ad campaign with digital ads running through the end of the month and a full page ad in the New York Times calling on HHS Secretary Alex Azar to fire Lloyd. 

“Until you get rid of Scott Lloyd, you’re stuck with his baggage,” the ad said.

“Secretary Azar, it is time to send Scott Lloyd — and all his baggage — packing.”

Lloyd, who previously worked as an attorney for the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic-based fraternal organization that opposes abortion, served on President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Gillum and DeSantis’s first debate GOP warns economy will tank if Dems win Gorbachev calls Trump's withdrawal from arms treaty 'a mistake' MORE’s transition team and in early 2017 became the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which oversees the care of unaccompanied immigrant minors. 

He quickly found himself at the center of controversy when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the Trump administration for denying abortions to unaccompanied minors in ORR custody under his leadership. 

In depositions of Lloyd recently released by the ACLU, he agreed that he doesn’t think unaccompanied minors have a constitutional right to abortion and described it as the destruction of human life, enraging Democrats in Congress. 

Several have called for his removal in recent weeks, including Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter Wilkie vows no 'inappropriate influence' at VA Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers MORE (Wash.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDurbin to Trump: ‘We’re the mob? Give me a break’ Sen. Walter Huddleston was a reminder that immigration used to be a bipartisan issue GOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks MORE (Calif.) and Reps. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials ratchet up fight over drug pricing | McConnell says Republicans could try again on ObamaCare repeal | Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit Overnight Health Care — Presented By National Partnership for Women & Families — Senate sends opioid package to Trump's desk | Drug companies fear Dem Congress | Premiums for employer plans rise Drug companies fear Democratic Congress MORE (Ill.) and Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteLive coverage: Social media execs face grilling on Capitol Hill Women poised to take charge in Dem majority Bipartisan leaders of House panel press drug companies on opioid crisis MORE (Colo.).  

“Under Director Lloyd [ORR] has become a testing ground for the radical Trump-Pence agenda to interfere with women’s health choices,” Murray said this week. 

“Scott Lloyd’s actions to undermine women’s health and deny women’s rights are utterly unacceptable and must not go unchecked.” 

Despite the growing pressure, Azar has indicated he supports Lloyd and thinks the ORR is within its rights to deny abortions for unaccompanied minors. 

“We are charged with these young women and young men who are minors. They are put into our charge and custody and we have to take care of them and have to ensure and look out for their physical and mental wellbeing, as well as for … the wellbeing of their unborn children, and so we’re doing the best we can there,” Azar told reporters last week. 

Under questioning from Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroHealth advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Overnight Health Care: HHS diverts funds to pay for detaining migrant children | Health officials defend transfers | Lawmakers consider easing drug company costs in opioids deal Congress reaches deal to fund government through Dec. 7, preventing shutdown MORE (D-Conn.) Thursday, Azar said he has met with Lloyd and “looked into the situation.” 

“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.  

Susan B. Anthony List, a prominent conservative group that opposes abortion, tweeted in solidarity with Lloyd this week.

“Scott Lloyd @ACFHHS is right to ensure that taxpayers are not forced to facilitate an abortion for an undocumented minor using our tax dollars. Let him do his job!!” they wrote.

Critics of Lloyd argue that the Trump administration’s approach to abortion requests from minors in ORR custody is substantially different from that of the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.  

While the Trump administration requires any ORR abortion requests be approved by the director, under former Presidents Bush and Obama the director’s approval was only needed when federal funds were requested to pay for the procedure, in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother was in danger.

According to the ACLU depositions, Lloyd denied seven requests for abortions between March and Dec. 19 of last year, including for a pregnancy that was the result of rape. 

The ACLU has represented 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. 

A separate class action suit regarding the policy is still pending in the D.C. District Court. 

Schakowsky, co-chairwoman of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, said at a rally at HHS this week the policy highlights the administration’s “anti-immigrant, anti-refugee and anti-woman” agenda. 

“It’s time to get rid of Scott Lloyd. We are calling for him to be fired from that position, and we are raising our voices loud.”  

— This report was updated at 9:18 a.m.