A Trump administration official at the center of a series of high-profile court cases over undocumented teenagers obtaining abortions said in a deposition that he does not believe undocumented immigrants have the constitutional right to an abortion.
Scott Lloyd, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), is at the center of several lawsuits filed by the ACLU since October on behalf of four undocumented teens who claimed the ORR blocked them from obtaining abortions. His comments came in a deposition in one of those cases, a transcript of which was released by the ACLU on Wednesday.
In the deposition, the lead ACLU lawyer on the case, Brigitte Amiri, asked Lloyd if he believed that the undocumented minors in the care of his agency have “no constitutional right to abortion.”
“Do I believe that unaccompanied children have no constitutional right to abortion?” Lloyd asked in return.
“Because of their immigration status,” Amiri added.
“Yes,” Lloyd responded.
This, however, is not an argument that the Department of Justice is making in the case. Throughout hearings in the US District Court for the District of Columbia and the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, the Justice Department has argued that they aren't violating the teens' constitutional rights because the women could either go back to their home countries to obtain the abortions, or find a sponsor guardian who would allow them to get the abortion.
Later in the deposition, Lloyd said that he personally believes abortion to be the “destruction of life,” although he said that belief did not prevent him from speaking to undocumented minors seeking abortions in a “neutral” manner.
He also told Amiri that he had spoken with an undocumented minor who was seeking an abortion “about her options,” and that he had instructed minors requesting abortions to be taken to what he and Amiri referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers” — anti–abortion rights family planning clinics.
According to copies of several emails redacted by the Justice Department, Lloyd also instructed his employees and advocates working at federally funded shelters for undocumented minors around the country to bring minors requesting abortions to crisis pregnancy centers.
“I think it’s deeply troubling that a government appointee, who has sworn to uphold the constitution, thinks that the constitution doesn’t apply to the marginalized population he’s supposed to be in charge of protecting,” Amiri told BuzzFeed News Wednesday night.
Neither DOJ or ORR immediately responded to a request for comment.
All four of the plaintiffs in the ACLU’s case so far have been able to obtain abortions through court orders or other means. But in mid-October, the ACLU requested that US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan certify the case as a class-action lawsuit, a request DOJ has argued is now moot.
But Chutkan has yet to rule on whether the case can move forward as a class action, and Wednesday it was unclear whether Lloyd’s deposition would have an affect on the case.