Obama Hits Human Trafficking, But Canceled Bishops’ Grant Over Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 25, 2012   |   1:45PM   |   Washington, DC

In a speech today, President Barack Obama went after human trafficking, saying it is a priority issue of his administration.

Yet, the Obama Administration put abortion ahead of human trafficking twice — by denying a grant to the Catholic bishops to help victims because they wouldn’t promote abortion and by refusing to investigate how the Planned Parenthood abortion business covered up potential cases of sex trafficking.

“It ought to concern every person, because it’s a debasement of our common humanity,” Obama said in his comments today. “It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the social fabric.  It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets.  It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.  I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name—modern slavery.”

“Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it,” Obama added.

Obama considers human trafficking such a great human rights cause that his administration denied the nation’s Catholic bishops a grant for a program helping sex trafficking victims because it would not refer for abortions.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had previously received a five-year $19 million grant to help victims of sex trafficking during the administration of pro-life President George W. Bush. 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.

While the Obama administration extended the contract briefly in March, the bishops were notified that it would not be renewed. Instead, Obama officials awarded the grant to three other groups (Tapestri of Atlanta, Heartland Human Care Services of Chicago and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants of Washington) — even though the bishops have helped more than 2,700 victims with the funding.

Last December, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held the hearing on the administration’s decision.

During the hearing, committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, said the decision violated the Obama administration’s “pledge to be the most transparent in history.”

“Unfortunately, today, we are presented with an example of how that goal is not being met and an opportunity to understand how the federal grant-making process has been politicized,” he said.

“The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has begun an investigation into the process used by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement to award grants that fund many types of care and services,” he told the hearing. “That investigation has uncovered many disturbing facts about the grant awards process, including: the most experienced and top rated national applicant was not selected, and lower-ranked organizations were somehow funded. The process was delayed for months while the agency struggled to find ways to inject new criteria into the process, and—of great concern—the judgment of experienced, career-level professionals was discarded when political appointees chose to overrule transparent decision-making.”

“These actions appear to constitute an abuse of discretion and undermine the integrity of the process, while potentially violating the spirit, if not the letter, of federal laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination based on religious beliefs,” Issa said.

At several points during the hearing, members discussed the fact that the Obama administration scored one of the applicants that received a grant ahead of the Catholic bishops more than 20 point slower on the scale of reviewing the grant than the high score the Catholic bishops received.

George Sheldon, the Acting Assistant Secretary at the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services testified for the Obama administration.



Sheldon was repeatedly asked by multiple members about how HHS could have denied the grant to the bishops even though their program to help sex trafficking victims scored the second highest when ranked against the other programs competing for grants. Sheldon was unable to give reasons why the Catholic program was not given the grant but protested that it did not have anything to do with abortion.

When asked by Issa what the bishops could have done to receive a grant, he called the question a “hypothetical” and said he could not get into a debate over hypotheticals.

Sheldon also admitted that the previous grant, issued under the Bush administration, did not contain a litmus test on abortion and he admitted that none of the victims the Catholic program helped said they received poor care.

Meanwhile, Lila Rose, the head of the Live Action organization that released videos showing Planned Parenthood centers helping undercover investigators posing as sex traffickers, previously took the Obama administration to task for ignoring the potential crimes.

The videos showed Planned Parenthood abortion centers in three states and the District of Columbia assisting alleged sex traffickers in arranging abortions and STD testing for underage girls victimized by the sex trade. One staffer was fired in New Jersey over her actions logged on camera and the House of Representatives approved an amendment de-funding the national abortion business.

But Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration would not prosecute anyone involved in assisting the alleged sex traffickers.