The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act should be among the least controversial bills the Senate passes: it's meant to prevent human trafficking, aid its victims, and increase prosecutions. Instead, it's turned into an enormous and enormously stupid fight about abortion. Here we are, America. Everything is officially broken.
Senate Democrats are accusing Senate Republicans of sneaking anti-abortion language into the bill, which is sponsored by Senate Majority Whip and Texas Republican John Cornyn. One of the things the bill is meant to do is use the criminal penalties collected from people convicted of trafficking and use that money to help victims. But the Republicans want to make absolutely sure that money can't be used to pay for abortion care for those victims. And so they quietly—one might say sneakily—added language saying the act would have to be in accordance with the Hyde Amendement, the law banning federal funding on abortion.
According to an email exchange obtained by the New York Times, a summary was sent by email to Senate Democrats of all the changes made to the bill between last year, when it was first introduced, and January, when it was re-introduced. The Hyde language wasn't in there.
Senator Cornyn, the bill sponsor, responded to the Democrats' accusations of dirty pool by saying, basically, that it's not his fault if nobody reads what they sign. "That presupposes that none of their staff briefed the senators on what was in the legislation," he told the Times, "that nobody read a 68-page bill, and that senators would vote for a bill, much less co-sponsor it, without reading it and knowing what's in it. None of that strikes me as plausible."
Senators like Patty Murray of Washington, who'd originally supported the bill, are now super pissed:
So is the American Civil Liberties Union, who sent out a press release yesterday calling the language "a stealth abortion restriction" and adding, "This extreme restriction adds barriers to abortion access for the women and girls the bill is intended to protect."
But I'm sure this will be resolved quickly and amicably, because that's what our elected officials do, right? Right?
Bill sponsor John Cornyn not moonwalking. He really looks like he's moonwalking. Image via AP