Anti-Trafficking Groups Call On Senate To Take Politics Out Of Debate & Pass Meaningful Legislation That Helps Victims

Leahy Substitute Removes Controversial Hyde Amendment, Provides Needed Protections for Victims of Human Trafficking

WASHINGTON (Friday, March 13, 2015) – Organizations dedicated to providing vital services to victims of human trafficking are calling on Senate Republicans to cast partisan politics aside and pass meaningful legislation to address a critical issue affecting thousands of Americans.

Many groups are also urging support for a trafficking alternative introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The Leahy alternative, which is cosponsored by 23 Democratic Senators, provides a noncontroversial, comprehensive solution to move forward on the stalled trafficking legislation currently pending in the Senate. The substitute has an added focus on prevention, and encompasses bipartisan proposals that recently have gathered strong support.

  • “The debate that is emerging over the Justice of Victims of Trafficking Act, S. 178, and the application of the Hyde Amendment to funds collected from perpetrators of human trafficking jeopardize this pragmatic balance in favor of a partisan confrontation that undermines the achievement of our joint goal of ending modern slavery in the United States and around the world. For these reasons, we urge all members of the Senate to turn away from this divisive debate and find a bipartisan approach to this new initiative to protect and serve the needs of survivors.” Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (statement)
  • “Human trafficking is a bipartisan and nonpartisan issue. Together, we stand united against modern day slavery, including both sex and labor trafficking… The National Network for Youth is writing this letter with the hope that the U.S. Senate will remove the partisan piece of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. This legislation is desperately needed and we cannot let this moment pass us by because of the addition of partisan and divisive provisions.” National Network for Youth (letter)
  • “Polaris supports the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act and wants to see it pass. We would prefer the Hyde Amendment language not be included in the bill.  The JVTA includes critical provisions that expand services for survivors and strengthen the criminal justice system's ability to combat human trafficking. The bipartisan support to address modern slavery should not be held up by a separate debate on partisan issues.” Polaris Project (Washington Times, 3/11/15)
  • “Each of the components of this substitute amendment has strong bipartisan support… Because homelessness can often lead to trafficking, inclusion of protections for runaway and homeless youth will result in a more effective Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs provide critical funding for support systems that serve youth who become homeless. The programs funded by the act – including emergency shelters, street outreach, transitional living and assistance for homeless youth in rural areas – can serve as critical, final safety nets for youth who would otherwise become victims of trafficking.” Human Rights Campaign (statement)
  • “The Center for American Progress extends our deep support for your Comprehensive Substitute Amendment that removes abortion restrictions for the funds to help victims of trafficking and retains nondiscrimination provisions in the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.” Center for American Progress (statement)
  • “The intent of this bill—to support survivors of trafficking—will be subverted if the provision is left intact. Human trafficking survivors—survivors of the worst kind of exploitation, which our government has called ‘modern slavery’—who were raped and became pregnant should have access to the full spectrum of health services, including abortion.” Legal Momentum President and CEO, Carol Robles-Román (statement)
  • “Any attempt to expand the reach of the Hyde Amendment must be rejected outright. The substitute amendment would strike this harmful language that undermines access to comprehensive health care for uniquely vulnerable victims of trafficking, and has no place in a bill designed to create protections for the same population.” American Civil Liberties Union (letter of support)
  • “AAUW believes the only way the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act should pass is without language that harms women. We urge Senators to oppose the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act until the anti-abortion language is removed.” American Association of University Women (statement)
  • “There should be no doubt that legislation involving the well-being of individuals who have been victimized by the most base of human behavior should be free of partisan wrangling. It’s disappointing and deeply distressing that this isn’t always the case.” Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs (letter)
  • “When it comes to victim services, we absolutely need to set aside our political views. Politics should not govern the options available to victims of sex 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 (statement)
  • “It is not for us to judge the type of services a survivor of sex trafficking needs. We need the basic rights of medical services without judgment.” Tina Frundt, Founder of Courtney's House (statement)
  • “We urge senators to vote for the Leahy amendment because, among other things, it would strike a provision in S.178 that would apply the Hyde amendment restrictions to private funds collected for the newly created Domestic Victims’ Trafficking Fund.  This provision represents a radical expansion of an anti-choice policy, imposing these restrictions on private, non-taxpayer funds for the first time.” NARAL Pro-Choice America (statement)
  • “These extraneous provisions mar what was otherwise an exemplary bipartisan proposal to assist victims of trafficking. It is deeply disappointing to see the bill become the vehicle for ideologically-motivated attempts to score political points by restricting women’s access to reproductive health care and immigration, among other issues. We urge the Senate to resist such provisions and oppose the measure if it includes the Hyde Amendment ban on abortion coverage.” National Council of Jewish Women (statement)
  • “As faith-based organizations representing millions of people in all 50 states across our nation, we are writing today regarding the Runaway Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act. Based on the values of our diverse faith traditions, we are committed to ensuring that all victims of violence have equal access to justice, strong legal protections and can access the lifesaving services they need to move from crisis to stability. We urge you to pass this legislation with the nondiscrimination clause intact.  Federal funds should not be used to discriminate.” 17 faith-based groups (joint letter)   
  •    The majority of human trafficking victims are women and girls, and they need access to the full range of reproductive health care services without barriers.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund (statement)
  • Those of us that work with women and young people of all genders know that good, honest information and access to safe health care is what survivors of violence need. They need our full support. They do not need further restrictions on their access to reproductive health care.” Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (The Hill, 3/12/15)


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