In Fight Between HHS & Bishops, Let’s Remember Who Has the Most to Lose: Sexually Exploited Young Women

Probably the best person to discuss the ongoing dispute between the USCCB, Kathleen Sebelius of HHS, and the Obama administration is Steven Wagner. He was the director of the Human Trafficking Program at Health and Human Services from 2003-2006, and was the architect of the original program to aid victims of human trafficking administered by the USCCB.

Wagner rightly points out that Kathleen Sebelius, in her ideological goal to push the Catholic Church (and other faith-based organizations who don’t employ contraception and abortion) away from helping these poor victims, is in fact further victimizing them:

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. [National Catholic Register]

Wagner then focuses on the underlying practical question: who do we want helping such women? The USCCB … or Planned Parenthood?

So, on the one hand, we have the USCCB, which will never facilitate an abortion but will arrange to meet all of the other appropriate service needs of victims, from residence to medical and mental-health treatment. On the other hand, we have an abortion provider such as Planned Parenthood, whose staff have been videotaped as being willing to perpetuate the apparent sex slavery of a juvenile by arranging for an abortion and not reporting the suspicion of felony sex abuse of a minor to authorities. Which is acting in the authentic interests of the victim?

When this becomes the question, it’s no surprise that more and more people are raising their voices that Sebelius needs to step down. I eagerly join that chorus of voices.

I hope to attend tomorrow’s congressional hearing on why HHS chose not to renew funding for the USCCB’s successful program to assist human trafficking victims and look forward to seeing how much more of the truth comes out.

In the meantime, please join me in praying for the victims of sex trafficking, that may receive love, care and compassion equal to their immeasurable dignity and worth.



  • TJM

    Sebelius: The modern face of Sir Richard Rich; “But for Wales?”

  • whart

    Thank you, Thomas. God bless you and all the writers at Catholic Vote. I and tons of others would be totally unaware of some of the goings on in our government. May God bless and prosper your work and the work of CV. Thank you for fighting the good fight and leading the charge.

  • Dustin D

    “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”. Yet again, it looks like these victims are another group of people where the Bishops should make decisions for the actual person. Further, the point of these programs is to give these victims options to take them out from under their domineering oppressors so that they can make informed decisions. If the USCCB’s program is so ineffective at that basic task, then it really should be eliminated. There is no reason to take women out of a situation where they are domineered by one controlling man only to put into a situation where they are controlled by a group of domineering men and denied the basic human dignity of being allowed to make their own decisions.

    • Coady

      Better not to be able to get an abortion and have the rest of your life, than to live and die 7 years after the fact because PP chose to give an abortion and hide it.

  • Harold

    “Not reporting suspicion of felony sex abuse of a minor to the authorities.” That’s a reason for the government to de-fund an private organization? Imagine the ramifications of that…



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