Healey, Walsh assert 'abortion politics' in play in Congress on human trafficking bill

03.19.2015

This originally ran in the State House News Service and on WickedLocal.com

By Matt Murphy, State House News Service

BOSTON - Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh are weighing in on the Congressional standoff over human trafficking legislation, blaming Senate Republicans for playing "abortion politics" with an issue that affects 27 million people worldwide.

Healey and Walsh, both Democrats, wrote a letter Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging the Kentucky Republican to strip language from the otherwise broadly supported bill that would prevent victims of human trafficking from using restitution funds to pay for an abortion.

The bill proposes to create a fund for victims of domestic trafficking underwritten by fines on those convicted of human trafficking crimes.

Senate Democrats this week have blocked GOP leadership's attempts to bring the bill to the floor for a vote due to the abortion language, and McConnell over the weekend said he would not put Loretta Lynch's nomination for attorney general to a confirmation vote until the human trafficking bill moves forward.

"To play abortion politics with a bill designed to help survivors of human trafficking is unconscionable," Healey and Walsh wrote. "Helping these brave survivors and holding offenders accountable should be above politics, and we urge Senate Republicans to remove the language at issue and immediately vote on the bill."

McConnell, in a statement from his office on Thursday, noted that many Democrats supported the bill when it was under consideration in committee, objecting to the suggestion that Republicans tried to sneak the abortion language into the bill.

"Throughout Democrats' filibuster of anti-slavery legislation, this is basically what they've been telling us: We don't read legislation we vote on," McConnell said. "Even so, It was always a stretch to believe that not a single one of the 13 original Democrat cosponsors of this bill - nor the many Democrats who voted for this bill in committee, nor their well-educated staffs - could not have been bothered to make it to page four before deciding to support it. Well, support it, at least until far-left lobbyists told them they couldn't anymore."

McConnell said nearly 70 percent of American's support restrictions on federal tax dollars being used for abortion.

Following passage in Massachusetts in 2011 of an anti-human trafficking law, a unit was set up in the attorney general's office to help support survivors and prioritize the prosecution of trafficking, a black market Healey estimated to be worth $32 billion worldwide.

"Through our work, we have seen far too many young victims preyed upon and exploited by human traffickers. We know that trafficking affects people of all walks of life in neighborhoods across our country," Healey and Walsh wrote.

Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey have joined Democratic leaders in voting against moving the bill forward for a full Senate vote.

 


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