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Senate passes human trafficking bill

Excerpted from "Senate Passes Human Trafficking Bill With Abortion Restrictions On Victims," Huffington Post. April 22, 2015

The Senate passed a sex trafficking bill on Wednesday after a bitter, weeks-long fight over an anti-abortion provision tucked into it. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act passed 99-0.

At its core, the bill has had broad support. It provides resources to law enforcement officials and collects fees from sex traffickers that go into a new fund for victims. But Republicans included language subjecting the victim fund to the Hyde Amendment, the federal provision that bars the use of taxpayer funds for abortions except in cases of rape and incest. Democrats refused to let the bill advance over the Hyde language, particularly because, for the first time, it would have applied to non-taxpayer funds.

It took a month of back-and-forth between Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the bill's author, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to find a compromise. They settled on creating two funding streams in the bill. One collects fines from traffickers and uses them for survivor services, excluding health care. That stream doesn't include Hyde restrictions. The second one comes from community health center funds already subject to the abortion limits.

The deal lets both parties walk away with a solid talking point: Democrats can say they prevented an expansion of Hyde, and Republicans can say they prevented victims of sex trafficking from using federal funds for abortions.


Commentary

Dr. Jeffrey BarrowsCMDA Health Consultant on Human Trafficking Jeffrey J. Barrows, DO, MA (Bioethics): “This legislation passed unanimously by the Senate focuses on the trafficking of children under age 18 and will provide many resources should it become law. There are provisions that apply to the healthcare profession, especially those who are “first responders” and healthcare officials. The bill provides grants to train professionals who commonly encounter victims of trafficking on how to identify victims of human trafficking, address their unique needs and facilitate their rescue. Emergency department personnel are a prime example.

“One study has shown that almost 88 percent of victims of domestic sex trafficking regularly encounter healthcare professionals while being trafficked, especially those working within emergency departments.1 Unfortunately, fewer than three percent of emergency department personnel have been trained on human trafficking and so these victims are rarely identified.2

CMDA’s Commission on Human Trafficking has addressed the issue of training by developing a series of online educational modules on human trafficking specifically designed for the healthcare profession which can be found at www.cmda.org/tip. In addition, the commission is planning an in-depth training seminar later this year in Atlanta on November 13-14. More information will be forthcoming and registration will be open to anyone who desires to learn more about the interface between healthcare and human trafficking. Any questions about CMDA’s work against human trafficking can be addressed to humantrafficking@cmda.org.

1Lederer L, Wetzel, CA. The Health Consequences of Sex Trafficking and Their Implications for Identifying Victims in Healthcare Facilities. The Annals of Health Law 2014; 23:61-91.
2Chisholm-Straker M, Richardson LD, Cossio T. Combating Slavery in the 21st century: The role of emergency medicine. J Healthcare for Poor and Underserved 2012; 23:980-987.

Resources

CMDA’s Human Trafficking Ethics Statement
Commission on Human Trafficking
Human Trafficking Continuing Education

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