Republicans Compromise With Democrats After Rift Over Abortion Language in Trafficking Bill

CongressWASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers reached a compromise on Tuesday after Senate democrats blocked the advancement of a federal sex trafficking bill over concerns that abortion funding bans extended to private money.

As previously reported, the Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act had been presented last month by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and sought to increase penalties for those convicted of sexually exploiting children, engaging in human smuggling or holding women hostage as sex slaves. Fines collected from those engaged in such acts would be pooled into a fund that would be used to help victims of human trafficking.

But Democrats noted that the bill included a stipulation that none of the funds collected from fines would we allowed to be used for abortion services—with the exception of cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother. Some asserted that Republicans surreptitiously inserted the language without mention, and argued that banning money collected from private fines from being used for abortions went further than the prohibition in the federal Hyde Amendment. The amendment bans only federal taxpayer money from being used for abortions.

Therefore, Republicans offered a compromise over the issue, proposing two separate funds for human trafficking victims. The first fund would come from fines against those who commit sex trafficking crimes, and would be deposited into the U.S. Treasury, where money would be used toward legal aid, law enforcement, shelter, counseling and other non-medical services. It differed from the original amendment in that it removed the abortion language surrounding private money.

The second fund would come from appropriations already set aside by Congress for community health centers. The fund would mirror the Hyde Amendment in that it would prohibit money being used for abortion—with the exception of rape, incest and the life of the mother. Republicans had asserted last month that the abortion language in the original amendment would not stop women from obtaining abortions as those who are trafficked would be considered rape victims, and the bill provided an exception for rape.

Cornyn said that he was pleased with the compromise.

“I’m thrilled we were finally able to come together to break the impasse over this vital legislation, and I look forward to swift passage in the Senate so we can ensure victims of human trafficking receive the resources they need to restore their lives,” he said.

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In 2013, Rob Schwarzwalder of Washington’s Family Research Council wrote that he believes that there is a strong connection between the human trafficking and abortion industries.

“Abortion and human trafficking are evils every thoughtful Christian should oppose. Virtually all evangelicals would agree with that statement. What is not always considered, however, is the troubling relationship between these things and how they build upon one another in a growing cascade of moral horror,” he said.

Schwarzwalder pointed to the words of Steve Wagner, the former director for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Human Trafficking Program.

“If someone is being trafficked—which is to say, under the domination of a pimp/trafficker—she is by definition unable to provide informed consent to an abortion or to a regime of contraception. The victim has no voice in this decision,” Wagner explained. “Indeed, providing such services to a victim of sexual trafficking benefits only the trafficker by getting the victim back out on the street and making money sooner.”

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