Back to News & Commentary

Helping Trafficking Victims Isn’t Biased

Dena Sher,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
Share This Page
November 18, 2011

Earlier this week, Michael Gerson, an op-ed writer for The Washington Post, penned a particularly troubling piece, accusing the Obama administration—and the ACLU—of anti-Catholic bias, because “the conscience protections of Catholics are under assault.”

The “conscience protections” he mentions are really a license for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, powerful lobbyists whose political agenda differs from lay Catholics sitting in the pews, who contracted with the government to provide services to victims of trafficking, to refuse to provide access to one set of critical services—the full range of reproductive health care, which includes contraception and abortion.

As Florrie Burke, a woman who provided services to trafficking victims under the bishops’ contract, explained in a great response to Gerson’s op-ed, survivors often pleaded with her to help them get contraceptive aid. This is because trafficking victims are often raped and assaulted, and many have contracted STIs or may have experienced unintended pregnancies. Yet, Florrie was prohibited under the contract from helping these women gain access to condoms or birth control.

Although the case has not yet been resolved, the government’s contract with the bishops expired (it was not “abruptly ended” as Gerson claimed). The government put out an announcement for an entirely new contract. And in recognizing their particular health needs, the announcement explained the importance for trafficking victims to have access to the full range of reproductive health care services and provided a preference in bidding to organizations that provide access to all of these services. Several organizations applied for funding, and the bishops were not chosen.

So, is prioritizing the needs of those who’ve experienced modern-day slavery really “anti-Catholic”? Florrie doesn’t think so. And neither do we.

Learn more about reproductive freedom: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page