Anti-abortion crusader Scott Lloyd has been removed from the top post at the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson confirms to Rolling Stone. Lloyd, who became infamous for blocking migrant teens in his custody from receiving abortions, is being transferred to HHS’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, where he will focus on outreach to community-based and faith-based partners.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar came under mounting pressure to remove Lloyd from the position after internal emails and depositions made public as part of an ACLU lawsuit revealed that Lloyd devoted an outsize share of his time to micromanaging the abortion requests of teen girls in his custody — a tiny fraction of the individuals for which O.R.R. is responsible.
Mary Alice Carter, executive director of Equity Forward, an HHS watchdog that has lobbied for Lloyd’s removal, says she was in disbelief that Lloyd was offered “a transfer and soft landing” after “so many reports of gross incompetence.” Simply moving Lloyd, Carter adds, “does not absolve [HHS of] the need for a full investigation of O.R.R. while he was there, and Congress needs to put oversight and investigation at the top its agenda.”
“Lloyd has permanently tainted the Office of Refugee Resettlement,” Dana Singiser, vice president for government relations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “Papering over his failure by moving him elsewhere in the federal government isn’t good enough. Lloyd is a national disgrace and he has proven himself unfit to serve in the administration in any capacity.”
It’s unclear what Lloyd’s removal from his post will mean for the ACLU’s ongoing lawsuit with the agency. The civil liberties organization was suing HHS over a policy Lloyd spearheaded as O.R.R. director, under which any girl in O.R.R. custody seeking an abortion needed his personal permission to obtain one.
Whether or not it matters “really depends on if O.R.R. is going to change their policy at all now, and I don’t know the answer to that,” says Brigitte Amiri, the ACLU’s lead lawyer on the case. “Higher-ups really backed him up — fought us tooth on nail on this — but the originator of the policy was Scott Lloyd.”
Amiri added that she did feel “a sense of relief that he is no longer going to be in a position to get sensitive information about pregnant minors’ conditions.” (Although a court order suspended the policy, Lloyd was still in a position to receive information about the young girls in his care, including their name, location and number of weeks gestation.)
An HHS spokesperson did not say who would replace Lloyd at O.R.R. but Carter says she hopes whoever it is has the experience in refugee resettlement. Lloyd himself had virtually none when he was installed in the role.
“Given the fact that there are still hundreds of children in O.R.R. custody separated from their parents, it would be good to see someone who can move expediently to get them reunited,” Carter says. (Lloyd was at least partially to blame for the federal government’s failure to keep track of the children separated from their parents at the border under the Trump administration’s maligned “zero tolerance” policy.)
Lloyd’s background — he worked to push anti-abortion legislation at the Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus before joining O.R.R. — will be of use in his new role at the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives.
Through a spokesperson, Shannon Royce, director of Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, said she was “thrilled to have Scott join our team and bring his relationships and expertise to bear in serving the needs of our communities.”
In a statement distributed by HHS, Lloyd said “he was excited to take on this new challenge.”