Speaking Out for Jane Doe (And Signing Pink Slips for Scott Lloyd)

On Tuesday, Advocates for Youth held their fourth annual abortion speakout on Capitol Hill as part of their 1 in 3 Campaign—once again creating space to smash stigma and stymie shame. But the event, and the participating storytellers, had an especially focused goal this year: To declare solidarity with Jane Doe (and Roe, Poe and Moe), the young undocumented minors held in detention who have been forced to fight for their right to proper abortion access under the Trump administration.

Dubbed “The 1 in 3 Campaign Speakout: Justice for Jane,” storytellers at the event shared their stories with Congress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The event started with a “Pink Slip Delivery” at 10:30 a.m., capping off a petition campaign calling for the the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, to fire Scott Lloyd, the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), who has blocked abortion access for young immigrants in the ORR’s custody.

But to call what Lloyd has done merely blocking access is an understatement. Instead, as their petition describes, he “has used his power to impose his religious beliefs onto the immigrant children and youth in ORR custody, and has shamed, bullied and coerced young people to continue pregnancies against their will.”

Lloyd’s pattern of behavior was first exposed during the trial of Jane Doe, an undocumented teen who sued the Trump administration with the help of the ACLU for blocking her access to an abortion while in detention. According to court documents, Lloyd also tried to prevent Jane Poe, a 17-year-old in detention who had become pregnant as a consequence of sexual assault, from getting an abortion—stating in a memo that “decline to assist in an abortion here is to decline to participate in violence against an innocent life.” At least three more teens have sued the Trump administration since Doe; footage obtained by Vice Media reveals Lloyd has interfered in at least seven cases. In at least one case, Lloyd even traveled to meet with one minor to personally intimidate and coerce her out of her decision to seek an abortion.

Lloyd, who holds a position that has nothing to do with reproductive rights, is brazenly attempting to make his personal politics translate into institutional practices in his department, and in doing so he puts women and girls in ORR’s care at risk. Just last week, the Washington Post announced that ORR-funded lawyers at the Vera Institute of Justice—a prominent nonprofit that has helped to ensure the rights of unaccompanied minors entering the country—had been prohibited from discussing reproductive rights, including discussion of one’s constitutional right to an abortion, with the 50,000 children that they serve each year for a time due to instruction from the ORR, which funds them. The ORR claimed that it issued no such directive, but consequent discussion between the two groups has now resulted in a return to Vera’s original practices.

Still, detainees remain especially vulnerable to Lloyd’s policies—and advocates at women’s rights organizations have continued calling for his removal from the ORR. “[Lloyd] is abusing his power over vulnerable teenagers in order to advance a draconian anti-abortion agenda,” Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, wrote in a message to members, adding that “Lloyd has almost no experience with refugees but an extensive background in anti-abortion and anti-contraception activism.” FMF has been petitioning for Lloyd’s resignation since February.

Natasha Piñon is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and a junior at the University of Southern California, where she studies political science and journalism. She also writes for The Daily Trojan.

ms. blog digest banner