Ted Budd’s bizarre new bill links abortion to human trafficking | Opinion

Ted Budd, North Carolina’s newest U.S. senator, introduced a bizarre bill this week ostensibly suggesting that abortion providers are accomplices to human trafficking.

Titled the “Stopping Traffickers and Their Accomplices Act,” the bill would require abortion providers to notify the National Human Trafficking Hotline if the provider has “reasonable suspicion to believe that a woman is a victim of human trafficking.”

In a press release, Budd correctly called human trafficking “a horrific crime that must be confronted & eradicated.” No objections there, of course, but it’s the second part of his statement that really raises eyebrows:

“Given the nature of how abortion clinics operate, it is necessary to provide needed accountability to ensure they are not aiding and abetting the abuse of women enslaved in the sex trade,” Budd said.

Wait, what?

Obviously, human trafficking is a serious and significant problem, particularly in North Carolina, which ranks among the top 10 states in the nation for the number of human trafficking cases. But this bill is a solution in search of a problem, vilifying abortion providers under the guise of confronting an issue universally agreed upon as sinister.

The bill claims that victims of human trafficking are often forced to have abortions, citing a State Department report from 2017. That certainly doesn’t mean that abortion providers are conspiring with human traffickers to perform abortions.

But the anti-abortion movement has tried to tie human trafficking to abortion, anyway, in an attempt to limit or stigmatize the procedure — even orchestrating a sting operation to catch Planned Parenthood employees “helping” sex traffickers obtain abortions for minors back in 2011. In reality, Planned Parenthood notified authorities when it believed there was a potential sex trafficking ring and fired an employee who did not respond appropriately.

A number of anti-abortion groups have joined Budd in supporting the legislation, including Students for Life Action, whose president claimed “the corrupt partnership between human and sex traffickers with the abortion industry is well known” and called abortion an “avenue for traffickers to continue their horrific abuse of women and girls.”

Suggesting that abortion providers are aiding and abetting the sex trade further demonizes them. By definition, someone who aids and abets a crime must have knowledge of criminal intent, so Budd seems to be suggesting that providers are knowingly endangering their patients. In fact, the bill explicitly accuses abortion providers of “turning a blind eye to the plight of abused women.” However, there is simply no evidence of this being a widespread issue — and, of course, aiding and abetting a crime is already illegal.

It’s not clear how compliance with the bill would be monitored or enforced. The bill does say that if abortion providers do not report cases of suspected trafficking within 24 hours, they could be slapped with a $10,000 fine or six months of prison time. But how exactly do you prove that a doctor suspected their patient was a human trafficking victim but explicitly chose not to report it? (Budd’s office did not respond to questions from the Editorial Board.)

It also places onerous requirements on abortion facilities. Not only would it require each employee to undergo annual training to recognize the signs of human trafficking, abortion facilities would have to submit proof of that training to the federal government and prove they have a plan in place to identify and respond to the needs of potential victims. But without concrete evidence of abortion providers’ complicity — which the bill conveniently fails to provide — then it’s not fair to enact additional burdens that other health care providers don’t have.

Budd claims that by introducing this bill, his intent is to protect women and girls from abuse, which seems like a noble cause. This is, however, the same Ted Budd who voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and has hinted he supports banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.

Without evidence that this is even an issue, Budd’s bill is a purely political move — just another thinly veiled attempt to smear and threaten abortion providers, making it riskier for them to do their jobs.