This morning, I watched a video by Rachel Maddow about a Trump administrator who has been tracking girls’ pregnancies in an attempt to force them to give birth. Scott Lloyd, the very pro-life former head of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement and author of a paper entitled “Why you can’t be pro-life and pro-contraception”, was featured on Maddow’s piece revealing how, as recently as June 2018, his staff members were tracking the menstrual periods and pregnancies of girls between the ages of 12 and 17 living in shelters run by his office. I could explain what was in the video, but I really think you should watch it yourself. It’s extremely creepy. Or, if you’d rather read an article, here’s an irreverent one by Emily Alford on Jezebel.com. If you have time, you should also read this article about Scott Lloyd’s “work” with migrant families.
So how did we find out about Lloyd’s shenanigans? It’s due to the bravery and determination of a girl who had come to the United States for help. Despite being in a foreign land and not yet of age, she managed to get help from attorneys who sued on her behalf.
Scott Lloyd sought to block a teenaged rape victim from getting an abortion. The 17 year old girl was one of many youngsters who had come to the United States hoping for asylum. She was sent alone to a shelter, run by Lloyd’s office. Lloyd determined that he would make it his priority as head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement that no girls would have access to abortions. The 17 year old had arranged her own transportation at her own expense to and from her doctor’s office, but Lloyd’s staff basically held her hostage at the shelter, trying to force her to stay pregnant long enough so that it would be illegal for her to have an abortion. Somehow, the girl managed to get herself to lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and they sued. The girl got her abortion, but only because she had the gumption to sue for the right, which is currently protected by U.S. law. In the wake of the lawsuit, it came to light that countless other girls, some as young as 12, were being forced to remain pregnant, even after they were raped.
To make things even creepier, staff members at the shelters were providing spreadsheets to Lloyd, detailing very personal information about the girls. He tracked their periods, whether or not they were pregnant and if they had asked for an abortion, how they became pregnant, and how far along they were. Lloyd also directed a staff member to read to one girl what happens during an abortion. He also tried to force them to see medical providers who subscribed to his pro-life views.
As I was listening to Maddow’s show this morning, I was reminded of a different country and a different time period. In the 1960s, Romania had a very liberal policy regarding abortion and birth control. Because many women were in the work force and there was a low standard of living in Romania, abortion and birth control were allowed. In fact, abortion was used as a family planning method there, because there wasn’t much birth control available and what was available was expensive. I wasn’t surprised to read about the abortions used in that manner. It was the same way in Armenia when I was there. I knew one woman who had seven abortions because there was no money for birth control and the men were reluctant to use condoms.
Anyway, in 1966, the Communist Party decided that the birth rate in Romania needed to be higher. They wanted Romania’s population to rise from 23 million people to 30 million. That’s how Decree 770 was created. Nicolae Ceausescu, who led Romania during that time, authorized the decree, which required all women to be monitored by gynecologists every month. Women who had miscarriages had to endure extensive investigations to be certain that the miscarriages weren’t actually abortions. All abortions and contraceptive methods were declared illegal, except for women over age 45 (later reduced to 40 in 1974, then raised to 45 again in 1985), women who had already borne 4 children (later raised to 5), women whose lives would be threatened by pregnancy or childbirth, or women who were rape or incest victims. Actually, it sounds like Ceausescu’s regime may have been more liberal than Lloyd’s policy is!
Decree 770 led to many women having babies they couldn’t afford. The children often ended up in orphanages, not because they were actually orphans, but because their parents couldn’t take care of them. The mortality rate among pregnant women was at its highest ever during Ceausescu’s regime, when Decree 770 was enforced. The Securitate, Romania’s secret police, kept a close watch on surgeries done in hospitals to enforce this very creepy and intrusive policy. Moreover, many children born during this regime were malnourished and suffered from physical, mental, and emotional handicaps, or were raised in horrifying conditions that led to a rise in child mortality. Many women sought illegal abortions, which were extremely risky for many reasons, legal and medical.
As I sit here listening to Rachel Maddow’s spot on this topic for the second time today, I am once again amazed at how the United States has allowed a monster like Donald Trump to run the country… and appoint disgusting, perverted creeps like Scott Lloyd to run government agencies, particularly when they have absolutely no relevant experience. All Lloyd is good for is pushing Trump’s revolting agenda.
It’s going to take a long time for the United States to recover from this disastrous administration and its attack on anyone who isn’t a white, Republican male. It’s going to take an even longer time for the United States to regain its reputation after electing this ignorant buffoon to office.
If you are interested in watching a fascinating film about abortion in Romania during Decree 770, I highly recommend the movie 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. It’s in Romanian and set in 1987, when Decree 770 was still law. Although the subject matter isn’t very pleasant, it’s definitely eye-opening… and for me, it’s a little creepy, because the sights and sounds remind me of 90s era Armenia.
Truly, I think it’s beyond sick that Scott Lloyd, paid by our tax dollars, was tracking the menstrual periods of migrant girls who have come to the United States looking for help. It’s even sicker that he’s doing everything in his power to prevent these young girls from getting help after they’ve been raped and gotten pregnant. It’s absolutely shameful that instead of helping these girls, Scott Lloyd was victimizing them again and invading their privacy in what should be among the most personal aspects of their lives. And even though he’s been censured by the court, he was still obsessively tracking these girls’ periods and pregnancies just months ago. What a sick, sick man.