By Lisa Correnti and Wendy Wright
WASHINGTON, DC (C-FAM) The same week U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a conference in Senegal that family planning is a “basic right,” the U. S. Congress was investigating the Obama administration’s rejection of a highly qualified group to receive a grant to help trafficking victims because it does not offer contraception and abortion. The grant was awarded instead to a group that “had no plan on how objectives would be met.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has established new criteria for anti-trafficking grants mandating that applicants offer full reproductive health services to victims, equating contraception and abortion with basic rights like food and shelter. HHS then denied a grant to an experienced, previously approved applicant, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), because it did not provide contraception and abortion. The program has rescued more than 3,000 men, women and children trafficked to the U.S. for sex and labor trade in the past five years.
An HHS internal document obtained by Congressman Darrell Issa, Chairman of the Oversight Committee, revealed that the USCCB was recommended by objective evaluators to receive $2.5 million but was passed over by HHS in favor of two sub-standard applicants that would refer for abortion. Evaluators said one of the chosen programs lacked “detail on key program areas, had no plan on how objectives will be met and even lacked resumes for key staff, including the program director.”
In the same week, Secretary Clinton told a conference in Senegal that family planning is a “basic right.” Addressing the 2nd International Family Planning Conference, Clinton called for accelerating efforts “to ensure that all women have access to family planning and reproductive health care and services.” Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, head of the United Nations Population Fund told attendees, “Family planning is oxygen—it is a right to get it.”
Beth Englander, who oversees the USCCB Anti-Trafficking Program, told the Friday Fax the vast majority of foreign-born victims in their program were labor-trafficked. “The program was intended to be a supplemental support for victims seeking help finding housing, food, clothing, and legal aid. In addition, female victims received treatment for routine OB-GYN care, to include STDs and physical injury.” Englander believes most sex-trafficked victims had access to contraception through various resources. “These arrangements would have been in existence prior to their rescue and entry into USCCB’s program and in the traffickers’ interests.”
Dr. Jeffrey Barrows, who works with recovered trafficked victims, says the new HHS policy could hurt trafficked women: “possible harm could occur if a very pro-abortion counseling approach were to be taken with a victim just out of a trafficking scenario who has not had adequate time to re-establish her autonomy.” Many trafficked victims experience traumatic dependency upon their abuser, known as Stockholm Syndrome.
“This dependence on others could be carried over into the aftercare stage where they almost prefer to have others tell them what they should do in certain situations without having adequately formed an opinion themselves,” Barrows told the Friday Fax.
Congressman Chris Smith, author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, expressed disgust with HHS’s actions. “Pernicious pro-abortion favoritism, embedded in this egregiously flawed process, does a grave disservice to the victims of trafficking.”
This article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org/). This article appears with permission.