Differing views on abortion stalls a bill designed to decrease human trafficking and help the victims
For once, there is a proposal that everyone can support: a bill that would toughen penalties on human traffickers and create a fund to help the victims. It wouldn’t even cost taxpayers for it would be funded primarily by fines paid by the offenders.
So why is this bill not getting passed?
The answer lies in what Democrats call an attempt to sneak anti-abortion measures into the bill. A very technically worded provision was added late in the process. It said that money could not fund abortions for the women forced to have sex against their will.
The original version of the bill that passed the House of Representatives contained no abortion language. The latest version that was presented to the Senate contained seven changes, according to Republican staffers. The Republican staff failed to mention one of the changes added anti-abortion language. Democratic staffers failed to catch the addition until it was nearly too late.
The new provision to the bill stipulates that funds “shall be subject to the limitations on the use or expending of amounts described in sections 506 and 507 of division H of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014.”
What this very convoluted language basically means is that the bill will have to adhere to the Hyde Amendment of 1976, a law that prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortions. Democrats argue that since the fund will be made up of fees paid by criminals, it need not abide by the Hyde Amendment.
Tensions rose on the Senate floor, leading to an incredibly candid exchange between Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), both sponsors of the bill.
Cornyn said Feinstein had supported the bill as well as the Hyde Amendment earlier.
“Why is it that it all of a sudden becomes objectionable on this legislation — when you care and I care so passionately about getting help for these victims — that this is the reason to derail the legislation?” said Cornyn.
The California senator apologized for not reading the bill closely but having found out about the anti-abortion clause, had to take a stand against it.
“You know, many of us ran on the right to choose,” said Feinstein. “I was one of them. I am old enough to have seen the way it was before, to have sentenced women who committed illegal abortions with coat hangers. That is sort of the systemic root of all of this. It is our history, senator. We are trying to change that history, and we keep losing. So there is one small thing in this.”
Both Republicans and Democrats are now scrambling to save this admirable bill from their collective political ineptitude.