Despite its previously held majority support, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act failed to pass through Congress on March 17 due to the inclusion of an anti-abortion provision. The passage of the human trafficking bill was met with a filibuster led by the Democratic party, delaying the issue for further revision across party lines.
Consequently, the dispute has stymied the official confirmation of President Barack Obama’s United States attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch, as the GOP contends that her admittance is contingent upon the bill’s clearance.
The controversy lies in the bill’s covert language dictating that the measure, which would provide a fund for victims of trafficking, prohibits the use of government funding for abortion. Otherwise known as the Hyde Amendment, this provision was inserted only in the final version of the bill. Yet, a majority of Democrats chose not to read the revised version. In an effort to validate themselves, they blamed their lack of knowledge regarding the bill’s anti-abortion language on the carelessness of their staffers and Republican counterparts. It is not only completely irresponsible for lawmakers to misrepresent their constituents in this way, but also discrediting to congressional legitimacy and accountability. Unfortunately, fundamental reparations for the victims have succumbed to the back-and-forth discord between Democrats and Republicans.
Evidently, placing the bill’s survival in the hands of political partisanship is a blatant offense to the preservation of criminal justice and human rights for the victims of what is widely regarded as modern-day slavery. By failing to communicate rationally, both parties are to blame for allowing gridlock to obfuscate the bill’s original purpose of reform. It is civil negligence. Clearly, policymakers are turning an issue of human rights into a game of technicality and political checkmarks.
On the slight-of-hand inclusion of anti-abortion language, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said, “Republicans are committed to turning a bipartisan bill into an unrelated, unconscionable political fight. There is a provision in this bill dealing with abortion which has nothing to do with this … Democrats will not allow a bill that helps the victims of human trafficking and child pornography be hijacked by a Republican ploy.”
This amendment is simply a promotion of special interests under the guise of pro-life insensitivity. The pressing importance of this bill supersedes the need to capitalize on issues concerning partisan interference. An urgent matter, the bill provides federal and state law enforcement with training and tools necessary to deal with the issues of trafficking. Creating a system for governmental accountability and sustainable development is necessary for victims. Grants provide monetary assistance but do not solve the systemic errors allowing for trafficking to occur. By including the anti-abortion language into this bill, Republicans are consciously marginalizing victims, cheating them of support they deserve.
Following this pattern of partisan irresponsibility, it is no coincidence that the delay of Lynch’s confirmation and the controversiality of the trafficking bill go hand-in-hand. Bound to the bill’s clearance, her official confirmation has remained in limbo, as Lynch, the first female African-American nominee, has waited longer than the last seven attorney generals combined. The delay is a disservice to the sanctity of the judicial system and a huge hindrance to its overall progression, facilitating the place of a lame-duck attorney general.
The anti-abortion provision must be removed. The passage of the trafficking bill, the confirmation of the attorney general and the future of victims are immobilized, stagnant because of political gridlock. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 300,000 American children are detrimentally affected by the egregious sex-trade industry, and this number will continue to increase, as these children stay put due to modern-day slavery, while this type of dirty partisanship continues.