03.18.15

As Senate Republicans Prolong Partisan Debate, Leahy Calls For Senators to Come Together & Support Survivors of Human Trafficking

Leahy: “Listen To What Trafficking Survivors Are Telling Us”

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, March 18, 2015) – Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urged all Senators Wednesday to set aside partisan politics and pass meaningful legislation to combat human trafficking.

“We must pay attention to what survivors tell us they need.  We have not walked in their shoes.  We are not here to second guess, or to assume we know best,” Leahy said. “Our job is to listen and do all we can to support them as they rebuild their lives.”

Over the last week, dozens of organizations dedicated to providing vital services to victims of human trafficking have called on Senate Republicans to work across the aisle and pass meaningful legislation that does not contain partisan provisions. Leahy also unveiled last week a path forward on trafficking legislation that the Senate could take up and pass today if Republicans agree.

The Leahy alternative strikes controversial language in the pending Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act authored by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) that would restrict the access of victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation to needed health services. Money to fund a newly-created victims’ fund in the Cornyn bill would be collected from convicted traffickers—not taxpayers.

“This is the traffickers’ money,” he said. “After these criminals have already taken away so many choices for these young women and girls, we should not be taking away a survivor’s right to make her own health care choices.  And we certainly should not require these survivors to have to prove they were raped.  That is offensive and it is wrong.  This provision must come out.”

The House unanimously passed a version of this legislation without the restrictive language.  And the Senate Judiciary Committee reported a comprehensive trafficking package last year that included Cornyn’s bill without the provision limiting women’s health care options.

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The Message From Survivors & Advocates Is Clear

  • “On behalf of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, a coalition of thousands of organizations that represents millions of victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, and the professionals who serve them, we write today to express our deep concern about the controversy of inserting the Hyde provision into the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The House passed a version of that Act that did not include this new Hyde provision and we ask the Senate to do the same.” National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women (letter)
  • “When it comes to victim services, we absolutely cannot allow our political agendas to determine which services may be made available to victims. Politics should not govern the options available to victims of human trafficking -- especially when such victims often have had their basic human rights taken away by criminals who had only their own agendas in mind.” Holly Austin Smith, trafficking survivor (op-ed)
  • “Absent a bipartisan solution, the risk is that the politics of abortion will seep more deeply into the human trafficking issue, leading to stalemate not only now, but into the future. Survivors will not be helped by such a turn of events. Only the perpetrators will smirk at the inability of U.S. government to overcome its differences and leave them better able to exploit the innocent.” David Abramowitz, Humanity United (op-ed)
  • “We implore the Senate to pass S. 178 without the inclusion of Hyde Amendment language, which would place limits on trafficking survivors’ access to vital health services.” Health Education, Advocacy, Linkage (HEAL) Trafficking (letter)

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