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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Recap: Senate Symposium on Sex Trafficking

Secular Pro-Life co-leader Terrisa Bukovinac here. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a symposium at the United States Senate entitled “Trafficking and Women’s and Children’s Health.” The event brought survivors of sex trafficking together with doctors and legal experts to discuss the serious and pervasive concerns of sex trafficking in America and how it relates to abortion, women’s health, and the health of their children. Americans United for Life hosted the event, and Secular Pro-Life was proud to co-sponsor.

From left to right: Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life; Terrisa Bukovinac of Secular Pro-Life; Patrina Mosley of the Family Research Council; Jamie Ballew of Concerned Women for America 

According to the Polaris project, from 2007 to 2017, their National Human Trafficking Hotline has received reports of 34,700 sex trafficking cases inside the United States. In 2017, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 7 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.8 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally. This is a major cultural problem.

This symposium was intended to influence Senate staff and inspire new legislation protecting and helping the victims of trafficking and their families. Listening to the survivors personal testimonies was undoubtedly the most heartbreaking and moving part of the day.

Three takeaways:

Trafficked people often experience extreme reproductive harm. Most survivors who testified experienced, or witnessed those who experienced, severe injury including infertility, cervical cancer, hysterectomies, and other conditions as a direct result of being trafficked. According to Dr. Yaro Garcia, a clinical psychologist and expert on human trafficking, the average trafficked woman sees between 20 and 30 clients a day. Trafficking disproportionately affects minority communities, and with a known bias in healthcare against women of color coupled with a lack of resources, access to necessary medical treatment can be out of reach. The women who spoke all called for free healthcare for victims of human trafficking and survivors of modern day slavery. They also called for, and some have implemented, training hospital staff to recognize signs of trafficking victims and action steps to take to get help.

Trafficked women experience forced pregnancy and abortion. Many of the panelists experienced both pregnancy and abortion. Some were forced to abort, while others were permitted to keep their pregnancies because their hourly rate would sometimes increase. Many were forced to work throughout their pregnancies and continue working directly after experiencing abortions. Allan Parker of the Justice Foundation pointed out that forced abortion is illegal in every state, making each abortion a serious crime to which the pimp or trafficker can be held accountable. He also suggested that states with fetal homicide laws can help deliver harsher sentences for traffickers.

The children of survivors experience mental health issues. Some of those who were trafficked were also trafficked by their parents as children, and many of them raised children in that life. Trauma experienced in the early years of life can culminate in addiction and other mental health issues. The survivors stressed the importance and need for mental health programs, treatment, and greater awareness of the needs of the children raised in the world of trafficking.

While the event was open to all Senate staff, it seemed only to be visited by conservative staffers. I wish more Democratic leadership saw the value in listening to these brave survivors and subject experts. This is a crucial issue affecting millions of people across the globe and women and children’s lives are at stake. I look forward to seeing positive legislation on the issue come soon to the Senate floor.

Jeanne Allert of The Samaritan Woman

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