- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2011

Continuing its policy of forcing the “full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care” into every federally funded program, the Obama administration has found yet another opportunity to exclude many faith-based agencies from competing for federal grants.

A recent request for grant proposals issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) states that “preference will be given to grantees that will offer all victims referral to medical providers who can provide or refer for family planning services and the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”

The victims in question are young boys and girls who have been sold as slaves in the sadly exploding industry of human trafficking. An organization that serves those victims but is unwilling to provide these services or referrals may still apply for a grant; however, “strong preference [will be given] to applicants that are willing to offer all of the services and referrals delineated” within the project objectives.

This is government-speak that means this: If you do not provide or refer for abortion or contraception, you will receive no money. The policy not only gives priority to applicants that provide surgical abortions but also to those that provide abortion-causing intrauterine devices (IUDs), abortion-causing morning-after pills, abortion-causing birth control pills and devices, and ella, the abortion-causing drug. This language in federal grants essentially excludes those physicians and religious organizations who historically have been on the front lines in helping the victims of sex trafficking but whose beliefs prohibit the performance of, or referral for, abortion and contraception.

There is dire need for effective care to be provided these young victims; human trafficking for sex- and labor slavery is an international epidemic. The U.S. State Department estimates that as many as 1 million men, women and children are impacted worldwide by this modern form of slavery. Diocesan Catholic Charities organizations and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have for some time routinely received federal grants to serve on the front lines in the battle against this plague. The HHS Anti-Trafficking in Persons Program even acknowledges that because of its national presence (through the various dioceses) the USCCB has been an effective and vital partner in efforts to combat human trafficking.

Before this grant request from HHS, Planned Parenthood and similar organizations would not have been eligible to receive such grants because abortion and contraception, for very understandable reasons, were not considered “care” for the child victims of sex trafficking. By blocking faith-based organizations from receiving these grants, the Obama administration opens the door for these groups to provide medical care to victims.

Among the many reasons to question HHS’ rationale in opening up grants to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood are recent revelations that have linked the nation’s largest abortion provider to problems involving sex trafficking. In January, the anti-abortion group Live Action performedan undercover investigation and found that in several cases, Planned Parenthood staff offered to help an activist posing as a pimp cover up evidence of sex trafficking and statutory rape by refusing to report obvious cases of the crimes. At one Planned Parenthood clinic in Perth Amboy, N.J., one employee went so far as to agree to assist the supposed pimp in working out an arrangement whereby his “girls” could continue to be exploited but would receive all the contraception and abortions needed to keep their boss in business.

Steve Wagner, former head of the anti-trafficking program for HHS, recently said, “If Planned Parenthood clinics are willing to aid and abet the sexual exploitation of children, Congress has an obligation to cut off the substantial federal subsidies flowing to the organization.” Sadly, the current administration appears to be more committed to finding new ways to direct federal funding to its pro-abortion political allies at Planned Parenthood than to doing what is best for the victims of sex trafficking. Cutting demonstrably effective, faith-based organizations such as Catholic Charities out of the anti-trafficking program is indefensible and appears to be yet another effort to put radical “reproductive health” policy ahead of common sense and religious freedom.

Is this an unfair charge? Considering last month’s HHS decision to mandate contraception and sterilization coverage at no cost in all personal and employee health insurance programs under Obamacare, this latest boon for the administration’s pro-abortion allies looks more like part of a trend than an independent, fact-based policy decision.

Bob Laird is a fellow of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International.

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