The US government official who oversees the agency sheltering immigrant minors says abortion and rape are both forms of “violence” in a memo released on Thursday that explains why he won’t allow abortions even for teenagers who have been sexually assaulted.
Scott Lloyd heads the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the US Department of Health and Human Services, which faces an ongoing lawsuit over its refusal to allow teens in its care to have abortions.
Lloyd’s efforts to dissuade teens in his office’s care from having abortion were disclosed in previous court filings by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Those filings included emails in which he offers to connect a pregnant teen with a “few good families” who would “see her through her pregnancy”.
But he appears to go a step further in a memo included in a filing on Thursday by the government, saying that his office has no obligation under the law or the US Constitution to allow abortions for anyone in a government shelter.
ORR cares for thousands of minors at a time, most of them unaccompanied children and teenagers from Central America who have entered the US without legal permission.
The memo, dated on Sunday, explains why Lloyd refused a teenager’s request even though agency staff had reason to believe the minor was impregnated in a rape.
“I am mindful that abortion is offered by some as a solution to a rape,” Lloyd wrote.
But, he added: “Implicit here are the dubious notions that it is possible to cure violence with further violence, and that the destruction of an unborn child’s life can in some instances be acceptable as a means to an end.
“To decline to assist in an abortion here is to decline to participate in violence against an innocent life,” Lloyd said.
HHS declined to comment on Thursday on whether Lloyd’s memo represented the department’s official policy, which would separate it from other federal immigration authorities.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement allows adult women in its custody to have abortions. ICE assumes the costs of any abortion if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.
Medicaid also covers abortion in the case of rape or incest, under government policy known as the Hyde Amendment that otherwise prohibits funding for most abortions.
The ACLU first sued the government on behalf of a 17-year-old teenager who was being denied an abortion.
After winning an appeals court ruling that allowed that teen to have an abortion, the ACLU then returned to court over the cases of two other teens who also sought the procedure. A federal judge ruled in favour of those two this week.
Lloyd became director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in March after working for the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic group that opposes abortion.
Planned Parenthood on Thursday called for Lloyd to be fired. In a statement, the group accused Lloyd of “imposing his personal beliefs on the young women in his agency’s care”.