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TO: Interested Parties
DATE: Thursday, April 16, 2015
MEMO: What the media is missing about the recent debate over human trafficking


There is a relentless effort by out-of-touch politicians in the U.S. Senate to push abortion restrictions into any bill, no matter the issue. Even a bipartisan bill to protect victims of human trafficking was twisted to deny those same victims access to safe, legal abortion. Making matters worse, Republican leadership has inexplicitly held up the historic nomination of Loretta Lynch to Attorney General, who has a record of prosecuting traffickers, unless the bill is passed with the anti-abortion measures intact.

Senator John Cornyn's so-called "proposal" still expands the Hyde amendment — a 40-year- old amendment that blocks federal funding for abortion for low-income women except in very narrow circumstances — and would apply Hyde restrictions to a new population of women, meaning that a bill intended to help women would hurt women. The legislation has the votes needed to pass with bipartisan support if the abortion language is removed, and today Congress received hundreds of thousands of signatures protesting these attacks on access to safe, legal abortion.

What’s clear is that this is part of a broader agenda to interfere in women’s personal health care decisions, and Democrats in the Senate are right to fight this every step of the way. Since taking office in December 2002, Senator Cornyn has voted against women’s health 28 times. His intentions are clear: “I believe that all life should be treated with dignity and respect, and I am committed to doing all I can to protect innocent life.”

Here are the top six facts you need to know about the ongoing Senate debate about abortion and the Justice for Victims of TraffickingAct.

  1. Anti-women’s health members of Congress have introduced nearly 30 measures this year to restrict access to safe and legal abortion. This is part of a coordinated effort that is playing out in state legislatures across the country – with more than 240 restrictions passing since 2011. It’s this type of agenda that has shuttered access to safe and legal abortion across the South and in Senator Cornyn’s home state of Texas.
  2. Republican leadership has inexplicitly tied the historical nomination of Loretta Lynch to Attorney General with thehuman trafficking bill, despite the fact that they have nothing to do with each other, aside from the fact that she has a record of prosecuting traffickers. As of today, Lynch’s nomination has been pending twice as long as the last seven Attorney General nominees combined.
  3. The anti-abortion language that was slipped into the Senate human trafficking bill would apply Hyde restrictions to women who previously did not face its constraints on their health care decisions, restrictions that limit abortion to the cases of rape, incest or when the life of the women is at risk. While the Hyde Amendment has only ever applied to taxpayer dollars, the Senate language attempts to impose Hyde on funds containing absolutely no taxpayer money. In fact, Senator Cornyn himself has said the bill will “Create a deficit-neutral ‘Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund,’ financed through fines on related crimes,” and that “This grant program will be funded entirely through the ‘Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund’ created by the bill.”    
  4. Legislation to protect survivors of human trafficking has historically passed Republican-led Congresses without this anti-abortion language. In fact, the House has passed twelve anti-human trafficking bills during this Congress without inserting abortion politics. That’s because abortion politics have no place in an otherwise bipartisan effort to support survivors of human trafficking.
  5. These women need compassion and support – not barriers, condemnation, and shame. In a survey of sex traffickingvictims, seven in 10 women said they had at least one pregnancy while trafficked, and one-fifth of respondents reported five or more pregnancies. The women polled in the study also reported being forced to have sex with an average of 13 “buyers” a day, and more than half reported having had abortions, according to a report co-written by Laura J. Lederer, a former senior advisor to the U.S. Department of State.
  6. Americans agree: politicians shouldn't be involved in women’s health care decisions. Earlier today, more than 220,000 petition signatures were delivered to Members of Congress, urging them to reject the most recent attacks on safe, legal abortion being pushed forward by Senator Cornyn and his allies.

Statement from Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

“What victims of human trafficking need is access to health services and other support, not the accounting gimmick that Senator John Cornyn has offered.  His relentless effort to use the trafficking bill to advance an ideological agenda to limit access to abortion is part of a broader agenda that we are seeing all over the country at the state and now federal level.  Americans agree – politicians shouldn’t be involved in women’s health care decisions.  What’s most troubling is that a measure that was intended to help survivors of human trafficking is now being used to hurt them. We call on the Senate to reject this amendment and any other attempts by Senator Cornyn and his allies to interfere in a woman’s personal health care decisions. These women need compassion and support – not barriers, condemnation and shame.”

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