WASHINGTON — On March 10, 2015, Senate Democrats accused Republicans of sneaking in anti-abortion language into the Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act.
Sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act is a bill meant to improve services for victims of human trafficking and to enforce human trafficking laws more efficiently. It would do so by utilizing the funds from the Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund it would establish. The money in the Fund would go to the various operations in the bills listed in the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.
One such bill is the Human Exploitations Rescue Operations Act of 2015, or HERO Act. The HERO Act would enable the Department of Homeland Security to establish a “Cyber Crimes Center.” The Center would collaborate with law enforcement on all levels (even on the international level) to crack down on the international market for child pornography, track victims and perpetrators of child sex abuse and save more children from “forced child labor” and other forms of “child exploitation.”
Cracking down on child sex abuse is imperative for the United States. In its 2014 report, the International Labor Organization grouped the United States and other countries into a category called “Developed Countries and EU.” In that $26.2 billion-market, human traffickers were able to generate approximately $80,000 U.S. in profit per victim.
The bill originally had overwhelming bipartisan support. However, the discovery of anti-abortion language in the bill has polarized Congress once again.
As The Washington Post points out, the Democrats’ point of contention is with this section of the bill:
“Amounts in the [Domestic Trafficking Victims’] Fund, or otherwise transferred from the Fund, shall be subject to the limitations on the use or expending of amounts described in sections 506 and 507 of division H of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014.”
Although neither this section of the bill nor the bill itself use the word “abortion,” the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 does.
The parts of the Act the bill cites state, “None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for any abortion.” However, the Consolidated Appropriations Act does make exceptions for rape, incest and threats to the mother’s health as long as an abortion is the only way to save the mother’s life.
The language used in these parts of the Consolidated Appropriations Act is lifted verbatim from a 1976 amendment called the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding for abortions and prohibits the federal government from withholding funds from healthcare institutions that do not provide abortion services.
Though Democrats have rebuked Republicans for not mentioning anti-abortion language in the bill’s summary, the language was present in the version of the bill the Senate examined in January. The language in the January version is exactly the same as the language in the current version.
“What do you want me to tell you? We missed [the language]!” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin said to Politico. “Clearly, if it had been front and center, we would have caught it.”
Regardless of who ultimately is to blame for this partisan clash, the point still remains that even the most altruistic actions have become politicized.
– Dean Delasalas