Catholic Bishops Bash ACLU Lawsuit for Abortions for Sex Trafficking Victims
by Steven Ertelt
January 15, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The nation’s Catholic bishops are bashing an ACLU lawsuit against the Bush administration to make them provide abortions for victims of sex trafficking. The pro-abortion law firm sued the Department of Health and Human Services saying it shouldn’t let the USCCB prohibit abortions for those women.
Since 2006, the health department has allowed the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops to limit the kind of services it offers women who are sex trafficking victims under the grant money it receives through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Sensitive to how women are exploited in the sex industry, the Catholic bishops prohibit any subcontractors from using the funds to pay for or promote abortions.
Instead, the Catholic bishops provide comprehensive case management services to survivors including medical and mental health services.
In a statement sent to LifeNews.com on Thursday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said the ACLU lawsuit is "without merit and an affront to religious liberty."
Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Migration and Refugee Services, said the ACLU would only further exploit women by making the USCCB work with abortion businesses.
"Victims of trafficking — mostly women and children — desperately need access to the life-sustaining services provided under the program, such as food, shelter, legal services, coordination with law enforcement, medical screening, mental health care, safety planning, child care, employment assistance, and access to benefits upon eligibility such as refugee public benefits," Wester explained.
"The ‘services’ that ACLU would force taxpayers to fund would assault, rather than advance, the dignity of these neediest people in our society," he added.
Wester told LifeNews.com that the lawsuit would hurt, not help, trafficking victims and would violate the First Amendment religious liberty rights of the USCCB.
"It does not help trafficking victims to disqualify the Church from working with HHS simply because the Church will not provide abortion," Wester said. "It also violates the longstanding principle of religious liberty to disqualify MRS or any other religious provider of social services from working with the government based on the provider’s religious beliefs."
Wester said he expects the courts to side with the USCCB and cited the 1980 Harris v. McRae case that allowed the federal government to decline to pay for abortions for poor women.
In that decision, the high court agreed that the law was constitutional even though it was in harmony with Christian and other religious views against abortion.
Wester said he hoped the U.S. Department of Justice would vigorously defend against the lawsuit, but with the incoming Obama administration there could be some doubt as to what position the department will take.
Through the Act, the federal government distributes funds to cover an array of services needed by the more than 14,000 individuals, mostly women, who are victimized by commercial sex trafficking.
Some of the women who are sold into prostitution become pregnant and many have abortions without abortion businesses doing any checking to find out if the abortion is pressured or coerced.
Wester said the services the USCCB offers to the women who are victims is "second to none."
"HHS recognized this when it chose MRS to implement efforts to address the evil of human trafficking. MRS has efficiently provided top-quality human services, in cooperation with numerous faith-based and non faith-based agencies," he said.
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