This morning the Senate voted on an anti-human trafficking bill, The Justice for Victims in Trafficking Act, that would bolster legal protections for children who are victims of human trafficking. Up until this week, the bill had received bi-partisan support and was expected to pass with little opposition. However, this week discussion arose regarding a provision in the bill that referenced the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2014 (Division H, Section 506, 507) which states that federal funding cannot be used for abortions (with some exceptions listed). What this essentially did was make the Hyde amendment – an act prohibiting federal funding of abortion – applicable to the funds of the anti-trafficking bill which are collected through fines. Upon the recognition that provisions were incorporated into the bill that applied the laws preventing federal funding from being used for abortion, debate emerged and partisan politics and accusations ran rampant.
The purpose of this bill was to offer legal protection to children being horrifically abused. Some things the bill provided for included: increasing funding for law enforcement action against traffickers and solicitors of child victims, providing grants to non-profit organizations, and expanding the definition of trafficking to include child pornography. The bill was defeated with a vote of 55-43 (60 votes were needed to pass) because the bioethical issue of abortion was referenced in this bill. Senators decided that rather than accept a bill that prevented the funding provided for in this bill to be used for abortion, they would reject an entire piece of legislation that would have protected children who are trafficking victims.
I find this situation to be especially heartbreaking – human trafficking is crime that is horrible beyond description. This bill set out to offer protection for the victims of this crime while also trying to prevent the government from funding the injustice of abortion. The purpose of this bill was to protect innocent children from being trafficked and abused; unfortunately the purpose was overshadowed by politics in this situation. Although not all intersections between politics and bioethics result like this, in the instance at hand the intersection of bioethics and politics resulted in a mess where something good was sacrificed for a political play.
Text of the bill is available here
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 is available here