The U.S. government is once again trying to use people of color for its medical experiments ― and once again, Americans aren’t paying enough attention.
A January report revealed Trump administration members discussed interfering with a young woman of color’s abortion while she was in federal custody. According to VICE News, officials in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) considered delaying a 17-year-old refugee’s abortion procedure and instead engaging in an experimental method to “reverse” the abortion ― a controversial practice that some anti-abortion advocates have campaigned for.
The VICE report details the case of a young woman from El Salvador who was raped before being detained and then sought an abortion while in federal custody. After obtaining a judicial bypass, as required for minors in the state of Texas, the young woman took the first of two pills used in medical abortion procedures.
This is when government officials discussed interrupting the second part of the medical procedure, according to a deposition that is part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit on behalf of the detained refugee. In a March 4, 2017, memo, then-acting ORR director Kenneth Tota instructed staff to take the young woman to a local hospital for examination. “If steps can be taken to preserve the life of the [unaccompanied alien child] and her unborn child, those steps should be taken,” Tota wrote.
That very same day, according to VICE, the abortion clinic caring for the 17-year-old received an ORR email inquiring about the various drugs involved in the so-called “abortion reversal” procedure.
Since October 2017, the Trump administration has tried to stop at least four young women ― Jane Does, as they’re anonymously referred to in court documents ― from seeking abortions through court injunctions and by delaying their access to care for several weeks. The January report revealed Scott Lloyd, an anti-abortion advocate and Trump appointee who became director of ORR in March 2017, personally visited one of these women in federal custody to convince her to continue her pregnancy.
In addition, Lloyd “receives a spreadsheet every week containing information on every pregnant teen in ORR’s custody, including the fetus’s gestational age,” according to VICE, and if a young woman in custody seeks an abortion, ORR staff cannot assist in the process in any way unless he authorizes the procedure. Why? Because Lloyd believes allowing young women to access an abortion would force his office to “participate in violence against an innocent life.”
Federal and state governments are essentially offering patients up to the anti-abortion lobby for medical trials.
Eventually, the young refugee from El Salvador was allowed to take the second pill and complete the abortion procedure, but hers isn’t the only case like this. Arkansas, South Dakota and Utah already require abortion providers to inform patients they can halt a medical abortion midway through by receiving progesterone shots; however, there is no evidence-based research to uphold this requirement. There isn’t enough evidence to suggest progesterone treatment is more effective in retaining pregnancy than simply skipping the second pill.
When government officials discuss interfering with a woman’s abortion halfway through the procedure ― and “reversing” the abortion via a medically unsound and experimental practice ― what they’re considering isn’t just unethical. It’s medical experimentation. America already has a dark history of state-sanctioned violence on Black and brown bodies for medical experimentation, particularly on those living in poverty and under government control. And we stood as idly by then as we do now.
The majority of women who undergo abortions are women of color. They are living at or just above the federal poverty level, and they are often already parenting at least one child. These women need medical care, and they are trusting the information their provider gives them is accurate and safe. However, not only are state governments funneling hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to anti-abortion pregnancy centers, they’re now forcing doctors to shuttle their patients to these centers for so-called “abortion reversal” treatments. Our government is preying on an already vulnerable population to win an ideological war, potentially endangering our bodies in the process.