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Democrats Will No Longer Block Anti-Human Trafficking Bill Over Abortion

Amy Klobuchar and Claire McCaskill
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) (L) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) talk after a news conference at a hotel in Havana February 17, 2015. |

Update: The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 passed the Senate Wednesday on a vote of 99 to 0.

Senate Democrats will no longer block anti-human trafficking legislation after a compromise was reached over abortion funding language.

Under the compromise, funds to aid human trafficking victims will be separated into two separate pots of money. One pot, coming directly from the federal government and used for health-related services, will have the "Hyde Amendment" language saying that the money cannot be used for abortion services.

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A second pot of money, which will come from assets seized from human traffickers, will not have the anti-abortion funding language, but will also not be used for health services anyway. That money will help pay for the non-health needs of trafficking victims, like legal services and transitional housing.

The compromise was offered by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who helped pass the legislation, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 or S. 178, in committee but objected when she discovered the abortion language after the bill was nearing a floor vote last month.

Senate business essentially came to a halt after Democrats announced they were willing to kill the anti-trafficking bill over the abortion funding language. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., decided that President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next attorney general, Loretta Lynch, would not get a vote unless the anti-trafficking bill gets a vote.

While the Hyde Amendment routinely gets attached to legislation dealing with federal funding of health services, pro-choice Democrats had objected to the restriction being applied to money that did not directly come from the federal government.

The compromise, dubbed the "cornfield idea" by Klobuchar because she thought of it while in a Minnesota cornfield, gives both sides what they want — the Hyde language will not be applied to the non-federal funding stream and it does not allow for the spending of any money for abortion services.

At the time of publication, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 was being debated on the Senate floor. It is expected to pass. The House has already passed the bill. President Obama is expected to sign it.

Lynch is also expected to be confirmed at the next attorney general.

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