HHS Creates a Conscience Obstacle to Combatting Human Trafficking

First the Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule mandating contraception funding under Obamacare. Now the same agency has ended its funding relationship with the Catholic bishops for an anti-human-trafficking program, because the program doesn’t throw contraception at the problem.

As Joan Desmond at the National Catholic Register explains:

Over the past five years, USCCB Migration and Refugee Services has directed a highly regarded trafficking victims’ program that tapped into a nationwide interfaith network, including the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Services, among other organizations.

The model program leveraged national, diocesan and parish networks to provide rapid assistance to migrant laborers forced to work on rural farms, as well as sex-trafficking victims lured into prostitution in urban areas. Since 2006, the government poured more than $15 million into the program, and the Church also provided $500,000 in additional funds.

On May 27, HHS announced plans for a new funding opportunity that altered the structure and criteria for successful grant proposals.

The new mechanism provided per capita services and multiple grants, moving away from the model of one single contractor. And, for the first time, priority would be given to grantees that could provide “family-planning services and the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”

As Ted Green discussed with NRO last week, birth control isn’t the panacea it is claimed to be by predominant aid groups and, frequently, our government — not in the case of AIDS in Africa, and not with trafficking victims. It can make things worse. 

Steve Wagner, former director of the HHS human-trafficking program

. . . argues that it’s counterproductive to provide family-planning services for victims of sex trafficking — the majority of whom are juveniles. “A lot of sensible people would say that providing contraception to trafficking victims is sustaining prostitution,” said Wagner, who designed the groundbreaking initiative managed by the USCCB for the past five years.

He said it was important to distinguish between people who have been victims and those who remain under the control of traffickers.

“Victims being trafficked right now cannot provide informed consent to an abortion or a regime of contraception because they are under the control of a trafficker. If you do provide these services, all you are doing is perpetuating modern-day sex slavery,” charged Wagner.

Currently president of the Renewal Forum, a nonprofit working on the issue of human trafficking, Wagner described the USCCB program as “hands down the best agency working to assist victims of human trafficking in the U.S.”

“The prohibition on providing abortion and contraception services is entirely consistent with the law and with the needs of victims,” said Wagner.

This, of course, would not be the first time a radical ideology has been known to make administrators blind to human dignity and the needs of individuals. And not the first time an HHS regulation has made it harder for private organizations to serve. 

ABC — Anybody But Catholics — Need Apply is becoming a mantra over at the bishops’ conference, and for good reason. Reproductive conscience issues are a real problem for this administration. Misleading or taking care of things by agency regs is the modus operandi. The trend should alarm all people of conscience.

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