Pro-choice senators hold the line to prevent extension of Hyde Amendment
(PRESS RELEASE) Today the U.S. Senate voted to pass legislation intended to help survivors of human trafficking that retains harmful restrictions on abortion care for survivors.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S 178), introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), establishes a fund to support survivors with fines levied against traffickers. As introduced, the bill attached restrictions on the use of those funds for abortion care, similar to the federal Hyde Amendment—an unprecedented expansion of that harmful policy to a non-taxpayer fund.
Following extensive negotiations since the bill was stalled several weeks ago, an agreement was reached to restrict the fund for survivors established by the measure to non-health purposes, trafficking survivors will access health services via Community Health Centers, which will still be limited by the Hyde Amendment. While this change prevents the dangerous expansion of abortion funding restrictions to new programs and non-taxpayer dollars, existing discriminatory restrictions on health care services for victims remain in place.
The Senate rejected a substitute bill offered by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that would have afforded the same services and protections for trafficking victims without the Hyde restrictions.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The last thing that survivors of human trafficking need after escaping their ordeal is to have their health care options limited by politicians’ ideological agendas.
“Playing politics with women’s access to reproductive health care is utterly inexcusable.
“We applaud the many Senators who stood strong in their support of ensuring affordable access to abortion care.”
While the legislation takes important steps to combat human trafficking and support survivors, anti-women lawmakers politicized the bill and jeopardized its passage by sneaking in a provision to restrict abortion care. By retaining the Hyde Amendment—a provision banning federal funding for abortion services with limited exceptions—and restricting the use of any funds for trafficking survivors, this bill harms the very women it is intended to help.