Abortion Won’t Help Trafficking Victims

Human Trafficking Expert Says Pro-Abortion Ideology
Could Be “A Death Sentence”

The U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing Dec. 1 on a decision by the Obama administration to deny funding to a Catholic Church-run program to help trafficking victims, on the grounds that the program doesn’t refer victims for abortion or “family planning.”

Numerous commentators – including Rep. Chris Smith – have criticized the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to deny the grant to the highly-rated program administered by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and instead give grants to programs that will refer for abortion and family planning but which experts say don’t have proven track records.

But the real issue is the assumption that abortion is a good way to help women and girls who are victims of trafficking. A look below the surface shows that abortion is likely to harm, not help, victims of trafficking – and, in the words of one expert, could even be a death sentence.

Even a cursory look at research on abortion shows that a prior history of sexual assault or abuse is actually a risk factor for psychological problems after abortion. And women and girls who have been trafficked could have other known risk factors for post-abortion psychological problems as well: low self-esteem, few friends, lack of support, feelings of alienation, prior emotional problems, previous abortion or miscarriage, and being coerced or pressured to abort or feeling that abortion is their only option.

Listening to Women Who’ve Been There

Further, the Elliot Institute’s survey of nearly 200 women who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest – one of the only studies on sexual assault pregnancy ever done – found that:

  • Nearly 80 percent of the women who aborted a pregnancy conceived in sexual assault reported that abortion had been the wrong solution.
  • Most women who had abortions said that abortion only increased the trauma they had experienced.
  • None of the women who gave birth to a child conceived in sexual assault expressed regret or wished they had aborted instead.

Further, in many cases the victim faced strong pressure or demands to abort. This was especially true for victims of incest or ongoing sexual abuse. In almost case where the victim had an abortion, it was the girl’s parents or the perpetrator who made the decision and arrangements for the abortion, not the girl herself. These included cases where the perpetrator arranged for abortion in order to hide the situation and continue abusing the victim.

For example, in 2002 a judge found a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Arizona negligent for failing to report a case in which a 13-year-old girl was impregnated and taken for an abortion by her 23-year-old foster brother. The abortion business did not notify authorities until the girl returned six months later for a second abortion. A lawsuit alleged that the girl was subjected to repeated abuse and a second abortion because Planned Parenthood failed to notify authorities when she had her first abortion. The girl’s foster brother was later imprisoned for abusing her.1

Abortion a Tool for Traffickers

Indeed, what is perhaps most disturbing is that abortion is often used as a tool by sexual predators and human traffickers. A 2009 MSNBC report on sex trafficking described victims being forced into abortion when they became pregnant. In 2008, Consuelo Carreto Valencia pleaded guilty to trafficking women and girls into the U.S. from Mexico and forcing them to work as prostitutes. Investigators said Valencia was the head of a prostitution ring in which the victims “were compelled to perform sex acts 12 hours a day and were subjected to beatings, rape and forced abortions.”

So it is very likely that a woman or girl who seeks help has already been a victim of abortion – perhaps more than once. As mentioned above, both prior sexual assault and prior abortion are known risk factors for psychological problems after abortion. Encouraging or suggesting that a trafficking victim abort in such circumstances will only add trauma on top of trauma.

Further, undercover investigations of abortion facilities by Live Action (and earlier, Life Dynamics) have found that abortion clinic staff are often enabling and even facilitating the sexual abuse of women and girls. When Live Action sent undercover investigators posing as sex traffickers into clinics, they filmed staffers advising the supposed traffickers on how to get abortions for underage victims while avoiding the law.

“A Death Sentence”

Steven Wagner, former director of HHS and the creator of the USCCB program to help trafficking victims, says that HHS’s policy of giving funds only to groups that promote abortion is exploitative and could be deadly for women.

In a piece at the National Catholic Register, he wrote that “to provide abortions or regimes of contraception to a person currently being exploited for commercial sex might very well be a death sentence.” Further:

… If someone is being trafficked — which is to say, under the domination of a pimp/trafficker — she is by definition unable to provide informed consent to an abortion or to a regime of contraception. The victim has no voice in this decision. Indeed, providing such services to a victim of sexual trafficking benefits only the trafficker by getting the victim back out on the street and making money sooner.

The average age of entry into commercial sex exploitation is about 14. The average life expectancy of someone in commercial sexual exploitation is seven years. Start at 14, dead by 21. The mortality rate for someone in commercial sexual exploitation is 40 times higher than for a non-exploited person of the same age. Helping a victim return to exploitation more quickly by terminating a pregnancy increases the odds of death.

Kristy Childs is a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation and the founder of Veronica’s Voice, an organization in Kansas City that rescues victims. She tells me there have been many live births among her clients over the past 12 years, but she has yet to be asked for help getting an abortion. “Pregnancy often leads a woman to seek rescue and a new life,” she said.

Abortion, on the other hand, is usually unwanted and often traumatic, used as a tool by sex traffickers and puts women and girls at further risk for more trauma and continued abuse. Organizations working to rescue and help victims need to work for solutions that will actually help women, instead of further endangering and abandoning them to abortion – and getting taxpayer funds to do so.


Learn More:
Women Who Became Pregnant Through Sexual Assault Tell Legislators: “Ask Us”

“Hard Cases” Booklet on Sexual Assault Pregnancy and Abortion

Forced Abortion in America: A Special Report

1. “Planned Parenthood Found Negligent in Reporting Molested Teen’s Abortion,” Pro-Life Infonet, attributed to Associated Press; Dec. 26, 2002.


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