What the mainstream media isn’t telling you about yesterday’s hearing

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Congressman Darrell Issa, held a hearing yesterday to investigate whether the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services discriminated against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when denying it a grant in October to aid human trafficking victims.

At issue is whether HHS, headed by pro-abortion Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, purposefully rigged the rules to keep the USCCB from getting a grant by giving preference to agencies that refer for contraception and abortion. Under the Bush administration the USCCB had previously been awarded a five-year, $19 million grant, which expired in March.

While some are accusing HHS of anti-Catholic bias,  groups like the Salvation Army and Christian Trafficking Shelter Association are also at risk for losing trafficking grants, as are secular groups of conscience.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, authored by pro-life stalwart Congressman Chris Smith, was created as a comprehensive U.S. policy to combat human slavery.

Its goals, according to a Department of Health and Human Services fact sheet:

  • Prevent human trafficking overseas
  • Protect victims and help them rebuild their lives in the U.S. with Federal and state support
  • Prosecute traffickers of persons under stiff Federal penalties
  • The program has nothing to do with a clause HHS inserted this year requiring grantees to inform victims about “family planning services and the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care,” i.e., contraception and abortion. Even ABC News gets this point:

    The Trafficking Victim Services Grant Awards provides funding for social services for trafficking victims, such as food and shelter, not funds for abortion or family planning services.

    From HHS’s own fact sheet, here are the benefits available to trafficking victims:

     What is the “health care assistance available?” From the same HHS fact sheet (click to enlarge):

     Again, there is no grant funding or benefits available for contraception and abortion referral. If it comes down to it, an impregnated victim of rape could learn via Medicaid about her abortion options.

    And why would rescued victims of sex trafficking need information on contraception anyway?

    I spoke with Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle after the hearing. Rep. Buerkle, a pro-life Catholic, is a member of the aforementioned committee. She mentioned two key points gleaned from the hearing not being highlighted in mainstream media reports.

    1. Victims of human trafficking also include labor slaves – for restaurants, supermarkets, babysitting, yardwork, street peddling, and agriculture, etc.

    2. Of the 3,000 victims USCCB cared for under the program, 900 were male.

    Thus, HHS is hurting male and/or labor victims of human trafficking by denying them access to the USCCB, an exemplary and proven caregiver of trafficking victims.

    The “brewing scandal,” as Turtle Bay (a blog covering international law and policy) put it, is that the USCCB ranked much higher than two of the groups eventually receiving HHS grants, one of which was actually deemed “unqualified” in the review process. Quoting from Congressman Smith’s scathing statement:

    Let’s not forget that the independent HHS reviewers found the USCCB to have:

    “one of the most experienced national experts on human trafficking documented by program guidelines, development, research, direct service provisions”; a “comprehensive system in place…” that has assisted over “3,012 victims of trafficking and their family members from over 98 countries over the past ten years”; and “demonstrated strong partnerships” by engaging “with both faith-based and non-faith based organizations”.

    And yet the Catholic organization was discriminated against solely because it fundamentally respects the innate value and preciousness of an unborn child and refuses to be complicit in procuring his or her violent death by abortion.

    Even though HHS reviewers gave the USCCB a score of 89 compared to 74 for Tapestri and 69 for the U.S. Committee on Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), the latter two got the contracts….

    USCRI’s proposal lacked detail on key program areas, had no plan on how objectives will be met and even lacked resumes for key staff, including the program director. The HHS review panelists stated:

    “The overall level of detail in the proposal is insufficient to ensure that the project will be established and run to an effective level, and that the management plan is credible and comprehensive. There is a complete lack of information on specific activities, and the timeline is vague, inhibiting evaluation of their reasonableness.”…

    The bottom line is this: pernicious pro-abortion favoritism, embedded in this egregiously flawed process, does a grave disservice to the victims of trafficking. Victims deserve better. The women and children who have been exploited by modern day slavery need our help, which is why I wrote the law in the first place.

    Congresswoman Muerkle told me the House has two options if HHS doesn’t do a turn-around: Withhold funding from the grant program, or write a statute protecting the integrity of the grant process.

    I also asked Congresswoman Muerkle if Planned Parenthood came up during the hearing, since institutionally it showed a willingness to aid and abet sex traffickers in Live Action’s investigation earlier this year. She said no, PP didn’t come up.

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