Reproductive Rights and Human Trafficking

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Freedom Network USA continues to vehemently oppose both legislation and policies that undermine a survivor’s ability to access the full range of reproductive health care. Last week, we joined our allies to submit comments to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which would protect a survivor’s access to reproductive care. HHS is considering an expansion of religious exemptions for services, including services for human trafficking survivors. This would allow grantees to restrict or deny access to services based on religious beliefs. This is just the latest attack.

Just last month, the ACLU drew national attention to this issue when it challenged the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR’s) effort to prevent a young migrant woman from seeking an abortion in Texas. The woman, only identified as Jane Doe, was an unaccompanied minor (UAC) living in a government funded shelter. ORR staff physically prevented Jane’s lawyers from taking her to her medical appointments. Eventually, Jane was able to access the care she needed. While Jane is not a known trafficking survivor, ORR also administers the funding for foreign-national human trafficking survivors, the Trafficking Victims Assistance Program (TVAP).

Unfortunately, this is not a new story. From 2006 to 2011, HHS reorganized its grant-making for human trafficking and allocated its entire sum to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). USCCB then provided sub-grants to organizations that directly serve trafficked survivors. USCCB refused to allow sub-grantee organizations to refer survivors to “abortion services or contraceptive materials.” The ACLU sued the federal government at that time, but the grant ended before the case was heard in court. Now that ORR has funded USCCB again, the ACLU has refiled. We are proud to have supported each phase of this fight.

FNUSA has always been committed to a human-rights based approach, ensuring that all survivors have unrestricted access to evidence-based, non-judgmental medical care –including comprehensive reproductive health services. All survivors must be allowed to choose the appropriate services that match their unique needs. The choice lies with the survivor, not with the provider.

There is still more work to be done. We will continue to work with our partners in a cohesive effort to protect reproductive rights. To learn more about our work in today’s climate, read the latest post in our #EverySurvivorCounts series.