For almost a year, World Vision has advocated for the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVRPA), inviting our supporters to join us in advocating for this bill. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) -- the cornerstone of U.S. policies to fight modern-day slavery -- expired on September 30, 2011, because Congress did not vote to reauthorize the law in time. As a result, U.S. efforts to combat trafficking are essentially on hold until the law is reauthorized.
Here is an update from our child protection policy advisor, Jesse Eaves.
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As we continue to work toward passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), one thing is certain: Our elected leaders are not making this easy.
From optimism to disappointment
As we headed toward the end of 2011, I was quite optimistic that Congress would finally pass the TVPRA. The Senate version of the bill (S.1301) was gaining bipartisan support as a direct result of constituent calls from advocates like you.
However, before Congress adjourned in December, everything blew up.
Here's why: In October, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded a large grant to three organizations to fund services for domestic trafficking survivors in the United States. One of the organizations competing for the grant was the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
However, officials from the Obama administration overruled HHS and denied the grant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops because, in accordance with Catholic teaching, the group would not refer trafficking survivors to a “full range of obstetric care” -- i.e., access to birth control and abortions.
And, just like that, for the first time in the history of the TVPA -- a law that has existed since 2000 -- the debate became about abortion, and, by extension, religious freedom.
Trafficking fight sidelined by politics
For 10 years, Democrats and Republicans alike have kept the debate over abortion out of the TVPRA because they knew that leading the fight against trafficking was too important to be sidelined by politics. Time and time again, conservative and liberal groups all came together to stand up against modern-day slavery.
But now, the battle lines have been drawn. What makes this especially frustrating is that such a battle need not take place. Language already exists in other laws -- most notably, the legislation that created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- to ensure that religious organizations are not discriminated against or forced to refer victims to abortion services.
Both parties are using this issue as a political wedge in an election year. It’s a game in which everyone loses -- most notably vulnerable children around the world.
Continued advocacy urgently needed
It’s up to us to remind Congress that enslaved and exploited children around the world don’t have the luxury of waiting to see who gets elected this year. It’s time to tell our lawmakers: Don’t play politics with child slavery.
World Vision will continue to work aggressively with both the Obama administration and Congress to that ensure religious freedom is protected. But we need citizen advocates like you to continue urging your senators to pass the TVPRA (S.1301). Our elected leaders need to know that their constituents demand that the United States have an updated trafficking victims protection law -- despite the other issues of contention.
If we fail to create the pressure necessary to pass the bill this year, we’ll have to wait until a new Congress comes in next year. We must pass the TVPRA now to reclaim America's distinction as a global leader in the fight against human trafficking.
Contact your senators today. Tell them that you support the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and urge them to reauthorize this critical legislation in the fight against modern-day slavery.
Read related posts: Trafficking victims protection: Keeping a law that works, and Hard facts about labor trafficking.