Sex Trafficking

Abortion Funding Battle Doomed Human-Trafficking Bill and Loretta Lynch Vote To Be Continued in April

But gridlock may be the best we can hope for with the "Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act."


Gage Skidmore/Flickr

With a budget resolution dominating Senate time this week and a two-week recess starting Thursday, the battle over human trafficking legislation is likely on hold until mid-April, and with it a vote on Loretta Lynch's nomination for attorney general. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed to block a vote on Lynch until the  "Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act" (JVTA) was passed, but partisan disagreement over abortion funding prevented that from happening.

Two weeks ago, the bill had strong support from both Democrats and Republicans and was expected to pass easily. But it was stalled when Democrats noticed that language concerning the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding from going toward abortion, had been inserted. Democrats contended that Republicans did this last minute; Republicans said the language was there all along. Democrats said the language must go, Republicans said it must stay, and both sides mostly refused to budge. Now here we are. 

Liberal and conservative media have both lampooned lawmakers for letting another abortion fight trump "justice for victims" (a Jon Stewart video to this effect was widely shared). Politicians have attempted to spin it to their advantage. Everyone's indignant. But gridlock may be the best we can hope for with this bill. The JVTA is packed with little to actually aid trafficking victims and lots to expand law enforcement power, including in ways totally unrelated to trafficking. [See this previous post of mine for more on the bill's specifics.]

At least a few in the media have begun to dig a little deeper into this bill, talking to activists working on the front-line of anti-trafficking efforts and researching trafficking stats themselves rather than repeating the claims of legislators and law-enforcement. Everyone should read Emily Crockett's excellent, in-depth piece at RH Reality Check, which explores how the bill "focuses too much on criminalization and too little on the needs of survivors." Jay Michaelson's recent Daily Beast article is another good primer on where the Senate trafficking bill goes wrong. Michaelson examines how existing initiatives that claim to target sex-trafficking are frequently used to go after prostitution more generally.  

Earlier this month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights criticized the United States for routinely arresting and jailing sex-trafficked minors for prostitution. Neither the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act nor state "safe habor laws" would put a stop to this. The best they do is allow victims to use being trafficked as an affirmative defense to prostitution charges or evade criminal charges by completing mandatory counseling and rehabilitation programs. 

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  1. So, there’s an almost one month break before things get worse again. Wow, what a relief.

  2. Democrats contended that Republicans did this last minute; Republicans said the language was there all along.

    Aren’t there records? Shouldn’t this be easily verifiable? Why is Cornyn standing behind a giant Sheetz cup of coffee?

    1. THat is Tiny Cornyn, standing behind a regular cup of coffee.

      1. Maybe it’s forced perspective. Someone placed the coffee right in front of the camera lens.

        1. Maybe that’s where they hide the hookers?

    2. It’s a podium. You know, as in “What’s the po deeum for this trip?”.

  3. Sounds like a bad bill, but Hyde Amendment language is quite routine. They’ve been putting it in spending bills since the 70s.

    So I’m not going to swallow any narrative about “right-wing obstruction” or “plague o’ both your houses.”

    Like Alice in Looking Glass world, prolifers have to run to stay in place, fighting routinely to preserve a principle which had near-bipartisan acceptance in the 1970s – the 70s!

    1. Oh, and the libertarians I’ve met, including the choicers, oppose government funding for abortion. The Hyde Amendment, when attached to a spending bill, bans funding of *most* abortions, in contrast to the Democratic alternative which is to fund *all* abortions.

      1. Yeah, Hyde language essentially bans government funding of an elective procedure.

        To a libertarian, this is a good thing.

      2. Yep. I oppose funding for abortion, stem cell research, etc… You want it, you pay for it.

  4. Now, hear me out. Given that recent thing about lobbyists being able to use sex to get the support of politicians, is there any way we could get sex workers technically classified as lobbyists? Get the pimps or whomever to fill out a lobbyist registry and have some sex workers hang out around the Capital once and while?

    1. Why do you hate sex workers? Surely, no one would volunteer for that shift.

      1. +1 who are you to question her punishment?

      2. Hey, which is worse, sucking dicks or sucking dicks?

        1. How will they get rid of the orange stain from Boehner or… Fuckit. I’m no SugarFree, but let your imagination run wild as you dare.

          1. Now Pelosi has some color down there.

    2. “have some sex workers hang out around the Capital once and while”

      I suspect “once in a while” means “less than they’re hanging around now.”

    3. What do you mean, ‘once and [a] while’?

      How do we get them to stop, once and a while?

      1. Well, they’re likely already hanging out in the Capital on a semi-regular basis, why not give them sexy power suits and glasses and make it official?

        1. sexy power suits and glasses

          Yes, go on . . . .

    4. Aren’t lobbyists already technically classified as sex-workers?

      1. not all whores are sex workers

    5. As far as I’m concerned, they can just turn the capitol building into a bordello and fill it with hookers instead of congress critters. That way we get to fuck something instead of being fucked all the time.

      1. We already have government bordellos. They’re called voting booths and tax offices.

    6. [stands and claps]

  5. This is a nice distraction that keeps the commoners on both teams too busy to notice serious ongoing problems, like the deficit, debt, NSA snooping, IRS politicization, regulatory overreach, legislative surrender to executive power. One could go on.

    It’s almost as if leaders of both parties got together and planned the whole thing.

    1. legislative surrender to executive power

      Well at least Reason is consistently opposed to that doesn’t support it when it suits their agenda like the Dems and Reps…oh wait….

    2. “a nice distraction”

      Limiting federal spending is a “distraction”?

      1. Yes, they’d like to remain distracted from it as long as possible. You know, until we run out of enough money to even keep the printing presses rolling.

        1. I was specifically wondering whether it matters if the feds subsidize elective abortions or not, because that’s the issue holding up the bill.

  6. Both the dems and the GOP want to fuck over the people as much as possible, to their own benefit. They just occasionally bicker with each other over how to do it and so we get a little relief from their tyranny when some shit piece of civil rights killing, economy breaking legislation gets blocked, for a little time, but never for long.

  7. Does the US have a human trafficking problem that needs addressing?

    Serious question.

    1. Yes, it’s hidden in the rape culture, so you can’t see it.

      Sorry, couldn’t come up with a serious answer. But congress passing bills typically has nothing to do with solving problems, so we couldn’t know by that. That bill is full of cronyism and handouts. I think the words ‘establish funding for’ are in there like 5000 times.

    2. Of course we do. And if you can’t find any evidence for the massive amount of sex trafficking, it just proves how sophisticated and wide spread trafficking is.

      1. And it’s not like trafficking human beings was already illegal or anything, so we had to do something.

        1. We even have terrible legislation that addresses this. The Mann Act.

    3. I ask, because a quasi-libertarianish friend of mine brought it up as an issue. Had some stats that, I recall, being way high sounding.

      1. Don’t tell me he’s counting the orphans that polish …. umm, never mind.

        1. “There are no orphans.” -Betsy Kettelman

    4. “Does the US have a human trafficking problem that needs addressing?”

      Even if it does “need addressing”, we have plenty of laws on the books to address it if we really want to. For example, laws against: people smuggling, false imprisonment, kidnapping, buying sex, selling sex, pimping, involuntary servitude, and so forth.

      Not enforcing the laws we already have is no reason to pass more laws.

      1. You are totally disconnected from the mainstream of American political activism, Homple.

    5. Yes, Francisco, we do and we should. Because any actual human trafficking is too much.

      But, having said that, the advocates tend to inflate victim numbers, as advocates do. In this instance there is a large group of advocates who are completely anti-prostitution and seek to conflate all prostitution with human trafficking, thus creating and maintaining a problem which will not die. And as the police crack down on visible, consensual prostitution that drives it underground and into the control of gangs who have no scruples about trafficking children.

      1. Yes, Francisco, we do and we should. Because any actual human trafficking is too much.

        Good thing its already illegal, then.

        If the problem is that the laws aren’t being enforced, then it might be worth asking why, and especially why adding a new law (that also presumably won’t be enforced any more than the current ones are) will improve things.

        Ya know, we have entire buildings full of LEOs that could easily be diverted to cracking down on sex trafficking.

  8. Does Planned Parenthood offer gift certificates for abortions?

    1. No, but they do have those “get the eleventh” free punch cards like Blimpie.

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