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Human Trafficking: Should women Democrats compromise?

Human trafficking 2

Democrats have done much blame-gaming and finger-pointing at Republicans for their inclusion of anti-abortion language in the Human Trafficking Bill. I get it and agree. But maybe we’re not looking at the whole picture. Maybe we’re so caught up in our justifiable anger that we’re failing to see the potential good that can come from the compromise worked out by representatives Boehner and Pelosi. For the compromise does have its positives—ones that address other big concerns of Democrats.

Now, I’m a staunch Democrat and feminist. I believe wholeheartedly in the unrestricted right of women to choose. Still, I can’t help wondering if, for the greater good, I can or should bend a bit on my abortion-funding convictions. I’m wondering if the act of compromise isn’t an inherent strength of women, isn’t the example we set best, isn’t part of what makes us uniquely wise.

So what is the “greater good” I speak of? The obvious answer is having the money needed to curtail human trafficking, which the United Nations estimates as having a worldwide market value of $32 billion. And let us remember that this modern form of slavery isn’t just about young girls being captured and sold for sex. Men, women, and children of all ages can fall prey to traffickers for purposes of sex or labor or both.

In addition, the compromise includes two more important benefits to our society.

First, the bill ends the flawed formula now governing Medicare reimbursements for physicians by having senior couples with incomes of $267,000 or more pay higher premiums for their Medicare benefits. If the compromise fails in Congress, the big losers will be low-income seniors and working-class households.

Second, the children of working class families would get a two-year extension of their Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage, which would insulate CHIP from what will likely be nasty fights this summer over Obamacare.

For those benefits, the compromise bill bans the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions except in cases of rape and incest or in limited circumstances where the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life. Without the compromise, more than 1,200 community health centers around the nation would lose $7.2 billion over the next two years. That’s a staggering loss, especially considering that the 22 million patients served by the community centers have far broader health care needs than abortion—needs that will go unmet.

It’s worth noting that the anti-abortion language itself is not new. Under the Hyde Amendment, it’s been attached to annual funding for Health and Human Services for more than three decades. However, in the trafficking bill, that language is extended so that it applies to not just public funding but also private dollars—money collected from increased penalties on those who promote or take advantage of trafficking.

Moreover, the language refers to past appropriations riders that affect public-health service programs, signaling that such funding limitations are not new. But in this case, the language applies to an extension of health-center funding rooted in the Affordable Care Act. Consequently, since the ACA is a permanent statute, it follows that any amendment to any part of the ACA will seep back into the U.S. Code.”  (Politico, “Decision Time for Dems”)

Another drawback of not accepting the compromise is that any extra money health centers do secure in future budget battles will come out of the hides of other education, labor, and health programs in 2016.

For pro-choice women, the hardline restrictions on taxpayer-funded abortions are flatly unacceptable and too dear a price to pay. We’re being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. And we’re being used as sacrificial lambs for the purpose of proving to the country that Democrats are not the obstructionists to getting things done.

Is the trafficking bill part of Republicans’ War on Women? You bet it is. Are Republicans being turds? Yes, and worse. Should we be angry? Absolutely. And if we accept this compromise, will we be opening the door for more funding battles? Most assuredly.

But despite our legitimate concerns, we women must ask ourselves: Can we, in good conscience, walk away from this compromise? Can we live with ourselves, knowing we’ve blocked the dollars that would help stop the trafficking nightmare, enhance the lives of poor and working-class seniors, serve the health care needs of 22 million people, and extend health protections for our country’s children?

It’s a quandary I’m still struggling with.

LindaK View All

A lifelong communicator, I'm pretty sure I came out of the womb talking. But with no siblings to chat and play with, I learned to express myself in writing. My subsequent birth as a politics junkie came while I watched my father, a career Marine, sob uncontrollably over Kennedy's assassination. Intuitively, I knew the world would never be the same, and I should pay attention. So I did.

Now, some 50 years later, I find myself dumbfounded by the trajectory of American politics and the prevalence of ignorance, bigotry, hate, and violence. I started Two Cents of Sense, hoping to help change that trajectory and to promote progressives' conversation, knowledge sharing, and actions.

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