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 TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed 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 MurraySenate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills MORE (Wash.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSanders revokes congressional endorsement for Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur Sanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' MORE (Calif.) and Reps. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Progressives hope to avoid drug-pricing showdown with Pelosi | 'Medicare for All' backers get high-profile hearing | Dems take victory lap after eliminating drug protections in trade deal 'Medicare for All' backers notch win with high-profile hearing Democrats declare victory for eliminating drug protections in trade deal MORE (Ill.) and Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteDemocrats request info on Google-Ascension partnership Trump health chief declines to detail ObamaCare replacement plan A dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal 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 DeLauroPhysicians arrested after protesting denial of flu shots to migrants in US custody Advocacy groups decry Trump's 'anti-family policies' ahead of White House summit 'Medicare for All' backers notch win with high-profile hearing 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.