In 2003, Scott Lloyd started writing a novel loosely based on his college experiences. He even kept at it while he was in law school. After three semesters the book had grown into something he was truly committed to complete, so after three semesters of law school, against the advice of family, friends, and faculty, he took a semester off to focus on it.
When the first draft was completed, he started showing it friends before shopping it around. The general consensus was that it was a great story, but that no publisher would buy it because of its portrayal of abortion. They were right. Science-fiction author Nick Cole was dropped from his publisher HarperVoyager (an imprint of Harper Collins) for refusing to remove a single sentence in a novel they’d asked him to write that cast abortion in a negative light. The novel wasn’t anti-abortion in any way, but that was enough for Cole to lose his contract. Since then he’s found more success in indie publishing.
The issue of abortion is more prevalent in Scott Lloyd’s novel The Undergraduate, but he did eventually find a publisher, Liberty Island, which describes itself as a place were “readers of a conservative or libertarian bent can find fiction, music, video and graphics that reflect their social values and political beliefs — and readers of all persuasions can find new voices and undiscovered talent.” In the interest of full disclosure, I am a contract employee of Liberty Island and designed the cover for Mr. Lloyd’s book.
Lloyd’s novel tells the story about college student Will Ferguson at the fictional Montpelier University who gets his friend pregnant. She wants to get an abortion, but he doesn’t want her to. According to the book’s description, The Undergraduate is a “painfully relatable tale of how privileged youth can be torn asunder by the sudden intrusion of adult responsibility and burning questions of moral culpability.”
Before his book was published, he’d applied for and was accepted for a job in the Trump administration in the Health and Human Services Department as head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program. While there, Lloyd was in the thick of the Trump administration’s pro-life policy affecting UACs coming to the United States who were pregnant and sought abortions. Lloyd explained that as far as he was aware, it was standard operating procedure during the Obama administration to approve abortions for unaccompanied minors who came into the United States. The Trump administration, Lloyd explained, took a case-by-case approach, “with the understanding that this is an administration that is going to defend the dignity of human life, born or unborn. We were not going to assist in an abortion when we did not have a legal obligation to do so, and we did not think we had a legal obligation to do so in any of the cases that we litigated.
The issue of whether the HHS Department had a legal obligation to facilitate abortions for UACs is still under litigation, but until that is resolved in the courts, the Department is required to arrange abortions for illegal immigrant teens. “I recused myself from any such case,” Lloyd told PJ Media.
Lloyd’s work the Office of Refugee Resettlement made him a target of the liberal media, and radical abortion groups like NARAL. Lloyd felt the attention he got from pro-abortion groups and the liberal media seemed excessive, given his position. “For them to go after someone at my level with my responsibilities is pretty extraordinary,” Lloyd said. “But they wanted to punish me.”
Eventually, word of Lloyd’s forthcoming novel got out, and they started attacking that, too. “The backlash against the book began before it got published,” Lloyd told PJ Media. He’s not sure how they found out, though. When Politico reported that Lloyd had a book coming out they claimed it had been written while Lloyd was working at the Health and Human Services Department. “Scott Lloyd, who’s been under fire for his stewardship of separated migrant children in federal custody, has been working on the book while employed at HHS, the individuals say,” Politico reported. Leftwing outlets like Jezebel and Rolling Stone echoed this false allegation. “I delivered the book according to our contract months before the 2016 election, and we finished proofreading in November of 2016,” Lloyd told PJ Media. “It was already written and proofread before I joined the Administration. But, the thrust of some of the reporting was that the Department was somehow giving me time to write.” These reports happened in November 2018 (around the time Lloyd transferred to another department in the administration) and the book was published in December. Lloyd provided a scanned copy of the contract to PJ Media, which showed a delivery date for the manuscript of February 29, 2016, proving that the book was completed just over eight months before Donald Trump was even elected.
The liberal media outlets missed the book’s launch in December, but by Easter weekend, the attacks started up again. “I got wind of this because VICE News contacted Liberty Island and were asking about sales figures.” Within a couple of days Jezebel, VICE, and Politico were attacking the novel, rehashing the false claim that Lloyd had written it while working at the HHS Department, and even criticizing the writing itself. Equity Forward, a pro-abortion group, also attacked the book, and actually took the effort to flag portions they claim were “misleading” about abortion.
Adam Bellow, the CEO and editorial director of Liberty Island, explained to PJ Media that Scott Lloyd’s novel isn’t an anti-abortion novel, as its critics are trying to suggest, “Scott Lloyd’s novel provides what most contemporary fiction isn’t providing, morally serious fiction with a deep interest in human character and personality.” He added, “It’s by no means anti-abortion. It explores the issue in an emotionally realistic way.”
The pro-abortion left has a history of not being satisfied with how abortion is portrayed in popular culture. The 2007 films “Juno” and “Knocked Up” were both criticized by liberal pundits as being pro-life movies for portraying female leads with unplanned pregnancies who decide against abortion. According to Bellow, the team at Liberty Island was surprised at the amount of time, energy and money spent by the pro-abortion left to attack Lloyd and discredit his novel, including extremely expensive ads in the New York Times. “We didn’t anticipate that would happen,” he said. “Clearly, this entity created to persecute him is an extension of the abortion lobby.”
Bellow describes the novel as morally serious Catholic fiction, and faults the left for opposing diversity in publishing. “Not only are they trying to destroy somebody for no good reason, but they’re also trying to police the publishing industry.” If the Democratic Party hadn’t driven everybody out of the party “who doesn’t toe the radical feminist pro-choice line,” Bellow believes Lloyd’s novel would not be an issue.
It’s worth noting here that the liberal media, which has reported on former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abram’s side career as an erotic novelist under the pseudonym Selena Montgomery, never questioned whether she had written her novels while on the clock as a public employee. The Washington Post even wrote a laudatory piece on her novel writing career during her gubernatorial campaign, noting that “her romance novels are imbued with a strong sense of social justice.” Abrams claimed she wrote her novels under a pseudonym because she thought her name was “boring” and not because of her career in politics. Unlike Stacey Abrams, Lloyd’s publisher didn’t suggest he use a pseudonym. “We encouraged him to use his name to help him build a reputation as a serious novelist,” explained Bellow. He also confirmed to PJ Media that Liberty Island acquired The Undergraduate prior to Lloyd’s accepting the job in the Trump administration. Lloyd has since left his position in the Health and Human Services Department.
For Lloyd’s critics who are anxious to discredit his novel, it wasn’t enough to attack its honest portrayal of abortion. Lloyd’s critics have also tried to paint the novel as poorly written, a charge Bellow scoffs at. “They don’t have taste, they have politics,” he explained. He also added that he knows whether a conservative can write high-quality fiction. “I’m literate in five languages, and a publishing professional for 30 years, I think I have good grounds to make a literary judgment.”
“We stand by our judgment of this novel’s literary quality and we recommend it highly to serious readers everywhere,” Bellow said.
The Undergraduate was published December 18, 2018, by Liberty Island, and is available in paperback and ebook.