Ward: Trafficking bill should not be held up by abortion disputes


The history of human trafficking is a long one, yet too frequently ignored. Columnist Ward believes that the bill to help human trafficking victims should not be stopped by political disagreement.

Madison Ward

Slavery. What does that word cause you to think of? Undoubtedly it brings back memories of those years of sitting in a high school history class learning places and names of people who were bought and sold in the African Slave Trade in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Then shortly after the regurgitation of these facts comes the affirmative thought that we beat slavery when Lincoln gave the Emancipation Proclamation. All of this information is true. We did in fact end the buying of selling of African-American men, women and children into a lifetime of hard labor and servitude. But here we are, hundreds of years later and the ability to put a price tag on another human is alive and well.

Human sex trafficking has been around for thousands of years, but has managed to fly relatively under the radar, which makes little sense to me, given that 20.9 million adults and children are bought and sold into worldwide sexual servitude as of 2012. However, back in January, it looked as if these startling numbers finally struck a nerve within the government when the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 was introduced to the Senate. In a nutshell, this act would go after the criminals who purchased sex from a trafficked individual and use those fines to help victims. Sounds great, right? It actually was great, for a while anyway.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was all for the act and voted unanimously in its support and for a brief moment in time Democrats and Republicans actually were seeing eye to eye on what was called by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “the most comprehensive and thoughtful piece of anti-trafficking legislation currently pending.” That was short lived because a few days later Democrats accused Republicans of sneaking anti-abortion language, essentially the Hyde Act, into the 68 page bill without informing the Democrats.

The Hyde Act specifies that no money will be allotted for abortions, in this case, for victims of human sex trafficking. Personally, I think that goes against the entire point of the Trafficking Act because its goal was to provide help to victims of solicited sex. Given that 98 percent of human sex trafficking victims are female, the likelihood of an unwanted pregnancy occurring is to be expected. Additionally, it is not unreasonable to surmise that the victim may not want to have a baby by someone who raped her … just a guess.

All of that being said, I am not here to advocate on behalf of a woman’s right to an abortion again. By now I have beaten that horse and I’m putting down the stick. I would, however, like to turn our attention to the bill itself and the pure necessity it holds. Because of this dispute between the Republicans and the Democrats, the act has been put “on hold.” Democrats in fact threatened a filibuster. But once again, as these government groups go at it over abortion, this monumental piece of legislature hangs in the balance along with the millions of lives of those being trafficked.

I understand the argument is stemming from not only a moral place but also a fiscal place. I feel they should take a step back and look at the big picture. For years, these two entities have been arguing over abortions and a woman’s right to choice, and they haven’t gotten all that far. This act has created yet another platform on which this argument can stand but I don’t think that is the most important thing to be focusing on at the moment. The thing to do in the here and now is pass this act and save the lives of those who have been sold into modern day slavery and leave the abortion argument for another day.