Washington, D.C. – Senate legislation intended to increase penalties for human trafficking and provide additional support for survivors was revealed to be a stalking horse for yet more attacks by Senate Republicans against some of the most vulnerable women and girls.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act would establish a restitution fund for survivors of human trafficking. But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) slipped in a rider prohibiting any money from the fund to be used for abortion care.
And Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) announced a rider to that would eliminate birthright citizenship for children born in the U.S. to non-citizen parents — an underhanded attempt to deny longstanding and hard-fought rights.
Sen. Cornyn claimed that his anti-abortion provision only maintains the status quo, but that is misleading. To be sure, the infamous Hyde Amendment prohibits federal tax dollars (such as Medicaid) from funding abortion care. Although conservatives on Captiol Hill love to refer to Hyde as “settled law,” it’s not. It has to be voted on along with every year’s appropriations bill. But funds in the Victims of Trafficking Act would come from fines, not taxpayers.
Rather than expanding Hyde, as the Cornyn rider would, the Senate should repeal it altogether. Abortion is a common and necessary aspect of women’s reproductive health care, which must be fully covered whether under Medicaid, in employer-based plans or on state-based exchanges.
Trafficked women and girls are subjected to rape and sexual assault at extremely high rates. It must be up to the trafficking victims themselves — not politicians in the U.S. Senate — to decide whether they need to use their restitution funds to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
NOW calls on the Senate to protect victims of human trafficking without looking for yet another vehicle to deny women their health care rights or gratuitously attack immigrant women and their families.