Safe Spaces for Sex Trafficking

Much-needed focus continues to be placed on the travesty of human trafficking. In Virginia, it was recently announced that the Attorney General’s office is receiving a $1.45 million federal grant to help combat the plague of human trafficking in the Commonwealth, including funding for a new anti-human trafficking coordinator. According to the Washington Times, officials are creating a task force that will “seek to assist victims, investigate and prosecute crimes and raise awareness about the problem in the [Hampton Roads] region and across the state.”

All things considered, I’d say it is money well spent in furtherance of putting an end to this modern-day slave trade, having the potential to rescue many lives from the throes of unspeakable bondage. Human trafficking is not only an issue everyone should care about deeply; it’s an evil for which the government has an affirmative duty to abolish and prevent.  And given that Virginia had the 13th most cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline through June 30 according to Attorney General Mark Herring’s office, Virginia is a prime place to focus these efforts.

Yet given actions of Virginia’s Attorney General, and in light of what we know about human trafficking as it relates to sex trafficking and abortions, I have sadly little confidence his office will do all that can be done to combat this horror.

One of the Attorney General’s earliest “opinions” protected abortion industry workers from having to report possible cases of sex abuse of minors – which by default would include young victims of human trafficking.  This was done after inspections found a Roanoke abortion center was not obtaining parental consent for abortions in some cases – including 13 and 14-year old children.  (That abortion center, in a recent inspection, wasn’t even training its staff on how to identify potential victims of sex abuse/human trafficking). 

How am I supposed to believe that the Attorney General is doing all he can do to combat human trafficking if he’s willing to prevent abortion centers that exist on the I-81 corridor – notorious for human trafficking – from having to report child sexual assault?

Now, within the past month the State Board of Health, at the apparent direction and aid of Mark Herring’s office, gutted much of the health and safety standards required of abortion centers in the state, with the clear effect – if not specific intent – of giving abortion centers a ‘free pass’ from state inspectors.

Among the numerous amendments made to the regulations, the Commissioner of Health has been granted the sole and absolute power to grant a temporary or permanent waiver of ANY of the regulations for abortion centers. That includes the center’s obligation to maintain patient records which must, among other things, include “1. Patient identification;  2. Admitting information, including patient history and physical examination;  [and] 3. Signed consent” (12VAC5-412-300). This means that the abortion center could lawfully be permitted to not record a single thing about a female patient that could otherwise provide staff with evidence that she is a victim of sex-trafficking and/or that she is being forced to have an abortion for that reason.

Another change strips the power of the Department of Health to enforce most of the provisions of state law related to requirements for abortion centers. These include critical reporting requirements for things such as suspected abuse, neglect, or serious threats to the patient’s health or safety (§ 32.1-127.1:03-04). These requirements exist, in no small part, to be a powerful tool in exposing human sex-trafficking by medical professionals who are specially trained in its detection and who are uniquely-positioned to encounter its victims. Yet the Attorney General actively sought to guarantee those tools were eliminated when abortion centers are involved. And even though each abortion center would still be obligated to follow state law, if the Department isn’t enforcing these requirements through its periodic inspections, then in many cases there is no enforcement and abortionists have little incentive to comply.

The economic reality is that abortion centers profit from the international human sex-trafficking enterprise. Among other consequences, sex-trafficking directly results in unwanted pregnancies by people who are committed to eliminating that “problem.” And where do you think they turn? That’s right - their local Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Therefore, economically speaking, abortion centers have every incentive to not expose abortions related to sex trafficking when they suspect it. Isn’t it interesting then, that Virginia’s Governor and Attorney General have spent the last three years working to ensure that Virginia’s abortion centers need not worry about the law impeding on those profits? 

Many on the Left like to talk about “safe spaces” when it comes to some things like speech and expression. Upon closer review, it appears that some are equally committed to ensuring similar safe zones for human sex-traffickers. We know these safe zones as abortion “clinics.” Mind you, they are not safe at all for children in the womb or their abused and destitute mothers who carry them. But we’ll just have to overlook that for the sake of uninhibited “access to reproductive healthcare,” even if that happens to include unfettered access to human traffickers.