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Congress Is So F*cked Up It Can't Even Agree To Fight Human Trafficking

The dysfunctional character of American politics hit a new low recently when Republicans and Democrats in the Senate failed to pass a bill aimed at combatting human trafficking, AP reports.

When American politicians can't work together to fight an undeniably immoral practice that's condemned around the world, it's just plain disgraceful and embarrassing.

The bill, known as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, calls for a $5,000 fine for anyone convicted of trafficking or sexual abuse.

In turn, the money gained from these fines would be placed into a brand new Domestic Trafficking Victim's Fund to create helpful programming for victims.

Initially, the bill had bipartisan support. After all, it's not difficult to agree human trafficking is a horrendous crime.

The bill was sidelined, however, due to disagreements over a provision surrounding the hotbed issue of abortion. The provision has been in the bill since it was first introduced earlier this year, but Democrats only noticed it recently.

Democrats, who are traditionally pro-choice, took issue with the provision as it would deny federal funds for abortions for human trafficking victims except in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is endangered.

Consequently, many Democratic senators have refused to move forward with the bill until the abortion provision is removed. They have voted to filibuster it five times since March 17 alone.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has been among the most outspoken Democrats in this regard, arguing that victims of human trafficking should not be forced to give birth given the sexual crimes of which they're often victims.

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Republicans are standing firm, however, as they are overwhelmingly pro-life. Moreover, they've stated they will not approve President Obama's nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch, until the bill passes.

Outrageous that Senate Democrats blocked our human trafficking bill for 5th time today. #humantrafficking #VA10 — Barbara Comstock (@RepComstock) March 19, 2015

The particulars of this debate are complicated. Abortion is an extremely divisive issue in the United States, but the fact that American politicians have allowed it to derail a bill designed to assist society's most vulnerable members is inexcusable.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery impacting an estimated 30 million people across the globe. It's a disgusting trade that generates $150 billion every year.

The innocent victims of this industry, primarily women and girls, are kidnapped, blackmailed and coerced into forced labor and sexual slavery.

No country is immune to this abhorrent practice. In the US alone, it's estimated that 100,000 children are forced into prostitution on an annual basis.

With that said, American politicians cannot allow ideology and hyper-partisanship to prevent the government from fighting this crime against humanity. This is an instance where compromise is imperative.

The abortion provision is arguably reprehensible. It's difficult to justify denying comprehensive access to reproductive services to victims of a crime that's almost always sexual in nature.

But perhaps a middle ground could be found in defining all human trafficking victims as rape victims, as noted by Vox. In this sense, they would qualify for federal funding for abortions and other related health services.

For now, it seems the bill will continue to be sidelined as the Senate debates over the budget.

One thing is certain, political polarization is no excuse for not finding a way to combat human trafficking. And it's deplorable that both Democrats and Republicans have allowed their own dysfunction to prevent decisive action.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Elite Daily.

Citations: Divisive issue of abortion stalls human trafficking bill (AP), The Senates meltdown over a human trafficking bill perfectly explains its dysfunction (Vox), ILO says forced labour generates annual profits of US 150 billion (ILO), Abortion politics threaten bipartisan bills in Congress (USA Today), Senate Girds For Lengthy Budget Battle Over Obamacare And Defense Spending (Huffington Post)