By: Isabel Stub, Social Media Intern
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act has had major bipartisan support since its introduction to the House on January 7th, 2015. The bill would create federal funding for human trafficking victims by imposing heavy fines on convicted traffickers. The entire process, from introduction to the Judiciary Committee’s approval last month, has been marked by neutrality in terms of partisanship, a testament to our nation’s collaboration when it comes to eradicating sex trafficking.
Recently however, one particular issue has come to light which may prevent the bill from passing. This week, Democrats withdrew support for the bill after finding that it contains Hyde Amendment language, which is a legislative attachment that restricts federal funding for abortions and other health services. This is a conservative partisan amendment to a bill that was previously conceived to be bipartisan. To compound the problem, the anti-abortion clause would remain unchecked for five years, instead of undergoing annual reevaluation.
Kierra Johnson, executive director of the group Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, released a statement, “No woman should have her decision about abortion made for her because she can’t afford medical care, especially those emerging from exploitation and in need of comprehensive health care like trafficking survivors, who are overwhelmingly young women.” These words resonate with a powerful argument that supports a more accepting and compassionate understanding of the needs of rescued sex trafficking victims. To restrict a woman’s access to choose what happens to her own body, regardless of whether a pregnancy is a result of rape or accidental circumstances, is based on fundamental lack of empathy and a denial of pragmatism. Abortions happen and will keep happening even if conditions are unsafe and unregulated. The safety of women is at stake, especially for those who cannot afford medical attention or who have already been ostracized by society by means of abuse or trafficking.
Regardless of one’s perspective on abortion, it is undeniably a partisan issue, which is halting the progress of the bill. It comes down to language. Senate Minority Leader, Dem. Harry Reid, took the floor on Wednesday morning to address the conflict, stating, “Today, the Senate is doing a good deed. We have a chance to address human trafficking. In this legislation that is meant as an outline to stop child trafficking and human trafficking generally, there is a provision in this legislation dealing with abortion. It has nothing, nothing to do with this.”
We need to demand action. With the oil boom in North Dakota attracting more sex trafficking than police and rehabilitation resources can manage, we need funding now and if the Hyde Amendment language is not removed, it gives traffickers more time to expand their business and destroy the lives of women and children. This is a human issue, a narrative told by people living in unfathomable conditions. But their voices cannot be heard. Write to your senators and expedite the passing of the bill without partisan legislation. Help victims regain their humanity.