Equating Abortion and Human Trafficking Creates Barriers to Services for Survivors

Share this:

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, legislator, trafficker, or abuser.

Comprehensive reproductive health care, including unfettered access to safe abortions, is essential for trafficked individuals and survivors. Trafficked persons – particularly those trafficked in the sex industry, forced marriage, and domestic work – often lose all control over their bodies and reproductive choices. Some traffickers force their victims to have abortions to keep them working, restrict medical care, forbid survivors to use condoms or other protection, or compel them to carry pregnancies to term.

Access to healthcare, including being able to make voluntary, self-determined choices about one’s reproductive health, is imperative for the safety, agency, and well-being of survivors. However, conflating reproductive rights and anti-trafficking objectives does not further the security and health of survivors. Instead, doing so inflicts substantial, tangible harm.

Idaho’s new “abortion trafficking” law [HB 242] provides a particularly salient example of the harm inflicted by conflating reproductive rights and trafficking. This law creates the crime of “abortion trafficking,” making it illegal for an adult to help a minor to obtain abortion pills or to leave the state to seek care without parental consent. Anyone convicted will face two to five years in prison and can be sued by the person who impregnated the minor, parent, or sibling of the minor – even if those pregnancies resulted from rape or incest. The law was passed by 80% of the State Senate and 84% of the State House, was signed by Governor Brad Little on April 5th, 2023, and became effective on May 5th, 2023.

Idaho has some of the most restrictive laws and regulations surrounding abortion. The state has already passed legislation that bans abortion at all stages of pregnancy with very limited exceptions for rape, incest, or serious threat to the mother’s life, requires parental consent when a minor seeks an abortion, mandates documenting the rape or incest with law enforcement, and criminalizes physicians who provide abortions outside of these narrow constraints. This law not only extends Idaho’s rampage on reproductive rights, but it inflicts tangible harm to minors who are victims of rape and incest but are unable to inform law enforcement safely.

Beyond the harm of restricting access to healthcare, Idaho’s “abortion trafficking” law harms trafficked individuals and survivors. Anti-choice advocates and legislators have strategically co-opted anti-trafficked rhetoric to restrict access to reproductive healthcare. Labeling this new crime “abortion trafficking” belittles the traumatic, dehumanizing experiences of people who have survived human trafficking.

The fabricated comparison between accessing healthcare and being trafficked is problematic and harmful. Equating the reproductive healthcare of minors with trafficking not only creates confusion among the general public about what crimes actually constitute trafficking, but it diverts life-saving services for survivors towards impairing bodily autonomy.

FNUSA has always supported and continues to support autonomous, voluntary access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare. We do not support the use of anti-trafficking rhetoric as an excuse to rationalize legislation that restricts reproductive rights and constructs barriers to effectively addressing trafficking.