Watchdog Files Complaint Against HHS Refugee Agency for Proselytizing, Impeding Access to Abortion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2018

Contact: Daniel Stevens, dstevens@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (“CfA”), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, asked the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) to investigate the Office of Refugee Resettlement (“ORR”) and its former director, Scott Lloyd, for improperly obstructing a teenager’s access to reproductive healthcare and for providing her with religious counseling and materials – including Bible verses – while in ORR’s custody.

Read the complaint here.

CfA Counsel Alice C.C. Huling said, “It is despicable that ORR would deny reproductive health care to a pregnant teenager, providing only Bible verses and coloring books in replacement.  Further, by trying to prevent her from having an abortion, ORR violated the teen’s constitutional rights. The Inspector General must investigate immediately.”

New emails obtained by CfA document how, at Lloyd’s direction, ORR sent a sixteen-year-old unaccompanied minor –  pregnant as the result of rape in her home country – to “options counseling” at an HHS-approved crisis pregnancy center (“CPC”), whose stated mission is to “turn the hearts of mothers to their children, and the hearts of parents to their Heavenly Father.”

During her visit to the CPC, the sixteen-year-old “was provided with appropriate drawings to color and with Bible verses.” Separately, she was directed to speak with a pastor from her evangelical Christian faith tradition. Alarmingly, even after the young woman’s family approved her choice to have an abortion, Lloyd suggested that she be provided with written examples of regretted abortions, “even when pregnancy [was] the result of sexual assault.”

Placing an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion is unconstitutional. ORR’s internal guidelines recognize this, specifically mandating access to reproductive health services for unaccompanied minors. Furthermore, the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from promoting religious teachings or ideas.

By attempting to prevent the teenager from accessing an abortion, requiring her to undergo religious so-called health-counseling, and providing her with religious texts, it appears ORR and Lloyd violated constitutional and federal law.

In October 2017, CfA had asked the HHS Inspector General to investigate Lloyd for deliberately misusing his position and government resources to violate the law and the constitutional rights of pregnant unaccompanied minors in ORR’s care.  Following CfA’s complaint and several FOIA lawsuits, HHS moved Lloyd from his position as ORR director, reassigning him to the department’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives.

Ms. Huling continued, “Scott Lloyd’s reassignment is not a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card for blatantly disregarding teenagers’ constitutional rights.  The IG needs to investigate how many other minors in ORR’s care have been similarly mistreated and whether these vulnerable teens are still being subjected to these tactics.  Lloyd and any other ORR staff violating the law must be held accountable.”

Campaign for Accountability is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.