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A Trump official's anti-abortion novel involves something called a “Porn Storm”

We read Scott Lloyd's novel, “The Undergraduate,” so you don't have to.

by Carter Sherman
Apr 22 2019, 6:02pm

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Scott Lloyd, a Trump administration official who personally sought to stop migrant teenagers in the administration’s custody from getting abortions, has published a novel. It’s about abortion — and regretting getting one.

The book follows the misadventures of William Ferguson, who attends the fictional Montpelier University in the 1990s and maintains a sexual relationship with his classmate Kristen. As Will deals with that entanglement, Kristen’s eventual pregnancy, and her decision to get an abortion, his intense guilt over the abortion — which he compares to “murder” — leads him to rekindle his Catholic faith.

At various points in the 300-plus-page book, Will also attends a so-called “Porn Storm,” tries to get a sex worker to “stop this life,” and frequently drinks himself into a joyless stupor.

Lloyd previously headed the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is tasked with caring for migrant teenagers who enter the United States without authorization and without their parents or guardians — including those separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

During Lloyd’s tenure, a handful of teenagers sued the agency over accusations that it had refused to let them get abortions. That lawsuit ultimately led to a court order against the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which blocked its officials from intervening in minors’ decisions to get abortions.

READ: Trump officials discussed "reversing" abortion for undocumented teen

Lloyd’s handling of the family separation crisis also prompted a review of his work, as he made decisions that made it harder to reunite separated families, Politico reported last year. In November, Lloyd transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives to serve as a senior adviser.

One month later, he published his book, titled “The Undergraduate.”

While Will decides that Kristen should have the baby and put it up for adoption, Kristen wants to get an abortion. The book doesn’t paint a flattering portrait of abortion providers: Will drives her to the abortion clinic, which Lloyd notes is across from a “fast-food joint,” and helps pay for the procedure in cash. The staffers at the clinic treat Will and Kristen with barely disguised disdain and apparent shame. As Will waits in the clinic — a hellish place with a “Cosmo” magazine, kissing “kiddies,” and a fish-less fish tank — he sees one teenage girl sob on her way out.

When another leaves, Lloyd writes, “Her nose was wrinkled like she had smelled something foul. Her eyes were blank, and across the entire lobby she noticed nothing but the doors ahead. Some kids got up and went out after her.”

“He must have felt perverted, standing there watching”

After the procedure, a male friend of Kristen’s asks Will if he’s alright. “The question struck me as a little funny, and I chuckled for a breath,” Lloyd writes. He then observes, in an evident reference to sexual violence, “He must have felt perverted, standing there watching. This was full penetration.”

In another jarring moment, after Kristen has revealed that she’s pregnant, Will’s friend — who’s described as “half Italian” — compliments Will's sperm and calls him a slang form of the n-word. Will laughs.

READ: The Trump administration won't stop trying to block abortions for undocumented teens

The abortion leaves both Will and Kristen depressed and anguished for weeks, and Kristen calls herself “such a bad person.” Their grief only starts to subside when they meet with a priest. Throughout this meeting, Kristen seems to remain essentially mute while the two men talk.

In confession, Will also admits to hooking up with other women, masturbating, and cursing, among other sins. (This is somewhat odd, because the characters in “The Undergraduate” don’t really curse; they tend to say “effin’” or “friggin’.”) He confesses to objectifying women, though Will continues to describe women by their attractiveness throughout the book.

“I paid for the abortion of my baby, which...would mean that I have helped commit murder...of my own child,” Will tells his priest. (The ellipses are Lloyd’s.) “I can’t think of anything a person can do that is worse than that.”

But while he’s gotten closer to God, Will doesn’t forgive himself for the abortion. He must first endure multiple drunken binges, seemingly endless descriptions of European cities, one failed encounter with a sex worker — who Will wants to give up sex work — and an Australian man who goes by the nickname “Doodles.”

Throughout the book, Will also struggles with his love for his classmate Lily. The two knew each other as children but reconnected when they both attended a dorm event known as the “Porn Storm,” where male and female residents watch porn together.

“Kristen, who had hinted to a few of us that she was into watching porn, was feeding off it all by standing up and lifting her shirt a little and pulling her underwear out of her jeans to show the guys what color she was wearing,” Lloyd writes. “Red.”

Lily helps end the Porn Storm when she starts praying in front of the TV (which, in a bizarre twist, is playing a video that stars one of Will’s ex-girlfriends). When Will joins her in solidarity, the crowd basically riots, flinging condoms and change at the pair.

By the end of his time in college, Will has fully embraced his Catholic faith. He condemns abortion providers, pornographers, and his fifth-grade sex ed teacher — who is revealed to have been a pedophile who helped lead a young girl into porn. Lily also finally proclaims her love for him.

“We smooched a little more, but there was no undressing,” Lloyd writes of their climatic union, hundreds of pages in the making. “She had a lot of work to do, so she went home. We married a year later.”

The book’s plot mirrors reporting by Mother Jones, which found that Lloyd told his law school classmates that he once helped a woman he’d impregnated get an abortion. Lloyd also shares at least one biographical detail with his literary protagonist: While Lloyd’s legal name is Edward, Will’s middle name is Edward. While Will is studying abroad in Italy, a woman struggles to pronounce Will’s name and calls him “Eduardo.” That leads Will to announce, “Then I guess I’m Eduardo.”

During his time at the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Lloyd repeatedly cited fears that young people would come to regret their abortions. When a 17-year-old who’d been impregnated through rape wanted an abortion, Lloyd refused to authorize one, writing, “Although formal research on this matter appears to be sparse, those who have worked with women who have experienced abortion have compiled a catalogue of anecdotal evidence, impossible to ignore, that shows that many women go on to experience it as a devastating trauma, even in the instance of rape.”

When news of Lloyd’s book first surfaced last November, Politico reported that government employees usually refrain from writing books on topics that touch on their responsibilities in office.

HHS spokesperson Evelyn Stauffer said Lloyd's novel did not breach agency rules. "HHS Employees — whether political or career — are permitted to write novels on their own time and that do not derive from their official duties," she wrote in an email. "Mr. Lloyd’s novel satisfied both of these requisites."

“The Undergraduate” was published by Liberty Island Media Group, which targets “readers of a conservative or libertarian bent,” according to its website. Liberty Island declined to reveal the book’s sales figures, but “The Undergraduate” has one five-star review on Amazon. Its official Amazon description also calls the novel a “‘Less Than Zero’ for the millennial generation.”

In a statement, Mary Alice Carter, the head of the watchdog group Equity Forward, renewed calls for Lloyd’s firing.

“Rather than focusing his efforts on reuniting children ripped from their parents during the family separation crisis, Scott Lloyd spent his time working on a bizarre, seemingly autobiographical anti-abortion ‘novel,’” said Carter, whose organization supports abortion rights. “This is also the same Trump official who couldn’t keep a spreadsheet of separated children, but managed to obessively track the menstrual cycles of pregnant women in his custody while also tracking changes to his anti-abortion manuscript.”

Cover: Senior adviser for Department of Health and Human Services Scott Lloyd testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on the Trump administration's separation policy involving migrant families on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)