They’re calling this girl Jane Doe. That’s not her name. She’s from Central America, so let’s call her Juanita. She’s 17. She came to the U.S. illegally. By herself. The feds caught her, and imprisoned her in a federally-funded “shelter” for refugee children somewhere in Texas.
So here’s Juanita’s situation: She doesn’t speak English. She’s by herself. She’s pregnant. She’s been arrested and taken to that “shelter.” At 17.
She’s alone. No family. No friends. She realizes this truth: “I’m not ready to be a parent.” She has no one to confide in . . . except the people who are holding her captive. So this gutsy girl decides her best option is to get an abortion.
She tells her captors that. No way, they say. She manages to get in touch with the ACLU. They take her case. The judge rules in her favor: She has the legal right to get an abortion. But her captors – the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement – defy the judge’s ruling. They first take her to a doctor who tries to convince her to carry the pregnancy to term, then to a “Crisis Pregnancy Center,” a religiously affiliated anti-abortion clinic where they, too, try to talk her out of it. The head of the refugee agency, E. Scott Lloyd – a strict anti-abortionist – flies out from Washington and tries to browbeat a teenager who realized that she wasn’t yet capable of being a good mother into giving birth against her will. He uses the power of his office to hold her captive, knowing that with each passing day, time would be against her.
My decision is between me and God . . .
Juanita doesn’t buckle. As she puts it, “I made my decision and that is between me and God.”
The ACLU elevates the case to the appeals court in Washington, D.C. That court tells the federal district court in Texas to issue an order requiring the Trump Administration to stop blocking Juanita, and permit her to go ahead.
In the end, Juanita gets her abortion. Her lawyer reports that she’s doing fine.
This girl is tough. Remember, she’s only 17. And alone! And in a foreign land! How many of us are strong enough to stick to our guns under such immense pressure?
Victory in Court: An Update on “Juanita Doe”
In a related class action suit at the end of March, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington upholds the ACLU’s case, rules the government’s action unconstitutional, and allows the class action suit to continue on behalf of any other pregnant immigrant held in federal custody.
Judge Chutkan rules that “ORR’s (Office of Refugee Resettlement) absolute veto nullifies a UC’s (unaccompanied child) right to make her own reproductive choices. ORR’s policies and practices infringe on female UC’s constitutional rights by effectively prohibiting them from ‘making the ultimate decision’ on whether or not to continue their pregnancy prior to viability — a quintessential undue burden.”
But the battle goes on: ORR’s director – E. Scott Lloyd, a political appointee – still has his job.
Abortion is no snap decision
For me, Juanita’s case strikes a raw nerve. Fifty-four years ago – 1964 – my girlfriend and I faced that same decision. We debated our options. We agonized. We kicked ourselves for our unbridled lust. We couldn’t sleep. We had nightmares and wild visions. We confided in close friends, weighed their advice. Like Juanita, we knew we weren’t ready to be parents. So, we decided to get an abortion. This was no snap judgment. The decision was gut-wrenching. Worse, we had to decide quickly. As my girlfriend so wryly observed, “This problem isn’t going to get any smaller.”
Abortion was against our upbringing and our religions. And, in 1964, it was illegal. There were no abortion clinics. We found a willing physician, but we had no idea how capable he was. What if he injured her? Or killed her? Women died from illegal abortions; we’d heard that. We worried ourselves sick, but we went ahead. We survived. And we knew we had made the right choice.
But we were 22 years old at the time. Imagine deciding that at 17. By yourself. In a foreign country. Juanita’s case infuriates me. I try to imagine how I would have reacted if some bureaucrat had had the power – and the gall – to force my girlfriend carry her pregnancy to term.
Separating Church and State
Equally galling in Juanita Doe’s case, E. Scott Lloyd tried to use the power of his office and his agency to impose his own religious code on Miss Juanita Doe. How dare he try to rip from this young woman – and dozens of others in his agency’s clutches – the right to control her own body!
Not only that, Lloyd continues to use his office to force his beliefs on other girls. He’s done it again: this time with a girl who was raped and who said she would rather kill herself than carry her pregnancy to term. Last week, the ACLU filed another suit against Lloyd and his use of the federal agency to enforce his personal religious beliefs on vulnerable girls.
This is government and religious intolerance run amuck. And unfortunately, we don’t know how many other minors may have fallen victim to this man’s religious crusade – the agency doesn’t announce them. The ACLU has had to ferret them out one at a time.
Thankfully, we have the federal appeals court – and the ACLU – to protect our civil rights.
For more details on this case, see https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/scott-lloyd-blocked-abortion-memo_us_5a3c1f45e4b06d1621b30381— Terry
So who is E. Scott Lloyd?
Since March 2017, E. Scott Lloyd has been director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency in the federal government’s Office of Health and Human Services. That office is in charge of detained unaccompanied refugee minors.
Mr. Scott has no experience in managing an office, let alone an agency that has some 5,000 minors under its care. He has no experience in resettlement, or any training in medical care or counseling. What he does have is a history of anti-abortion and anti-contraceptive advocacy.
His professional background: a law degree from Catholic University of America; work as an attorney for Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal and service organization; and work for LegalWorks Apostolate, a group that provides legal representation and counsel “while remaining faithful to Church teaching.”
Learn more about Mr. Scott at