ACLU Sues Bush Admin For Letting Catholic Bishops Spare Women Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 12, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

ACLU Sues Bush Admin For Letting Catholic Bishops Spare Women Abortions

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 12
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The ACLU has filed a suit against the Bush administration for allowing taxpayer funding of a Catholic program that spares women abortions. The pro-abortion law firm sued the Department of Health and Human Services over allowing the Catholic bishops to institute a pro-life policy.

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.

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.

Sensitive to how women are exploited, the Catholic bishops, who have their own program to help these victims, prohibit any subcontractors from using the funds to pay for or promote abortions.

Instead, the Catholic bishops provides comprehensive case management services to survivors including medical and mental health services.

The issue came up when officials with the Commonwealth Catholic Charities in Richmond, Virginia came under fire for signing a parental consent form for an abortion for a teenager.

The ACLU sought information in the case from the federal government in November and filed suit today saying the HHS was wrong to allow the Catholic groups to institute the no-abortion policy.

Brigitte Amiri, staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement that the policy denies sex trafficking victims "the full range of needed services, including" abortion.

Daniel Mach, a litigation director, went further and claimed "the Bush administration has sanctioned the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars."

"It has allowed USCCB to impose its religious beliefs on trafficking victims by prohibiting sub grantees from ensuring access to services like … abortion," he added.

But Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the bishops’ conference responded that women who seek help from the Catholic Church receive the best care available.

"The problem of trafficking in this country is huge and serious and the Catholic Church has the best network of services bar none," she said. "Going to the Catholic Church for social services is very logical."

According to the ACLU, since April 2006, HHS, which administers funds allocated by the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, has awarded USCCB grants ranging from $2.5 million to $3.5 million annually to support organizations that provide direct services to trafficking victims.

HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe has previously talked about the funds in question and said they were intended to help victims, not secure abortions.

"These federal funds are awarded with the clear purpose of caring for unaccompanied minors here from other countries," Wolfe said, adding that they are not "to facilitate … procuring an abortion."

The case is ACLU of Massachusetts v. Leavitt and was in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts because a Massachusetts group that helps such women is one of the contractors the USCCB works with in the state.

Related web sites:
USCCB Anti-Trafficking Per Capita Services Program –

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