Patrina Mosley is FRC's Director of Life, Culture, and Women's Advocacy. This article appeared in The Federalist on January 31, 2020.
January is both Human Trafficking Awareness Month and Sanctity of Human Life Month. These issues have more in common than people may realize. Across numerous global studies of sex-trafficking survivors, abortion is a consistent part of the story. Both abortion and sex-trafficking are businesses that exploit women, sometimes in tandem as organizations such as Planned Parenthood enable the abuse for profit. And both are an affront to human dignity.
Pimps Use Abortion to Maximize Profits
The risk of pregnancy is part of the sex-trafficking industry. Pimps and sex-traffickers are most concerned with profits, so when their victims become pregnant, they often force or pressure them to abort so they can put them right back onto the streets.
It is not unusual for females to be traffickers and to oversee a harem of victims, including taking them to get abortions, according to a 2014 documentary featuring testimony from sex-trafficking survivors. On the other hand, male pimps will sometimes impregnate their victims to keep them under control.
Research shows that, as a whole, women who abort undergo some form of coercion and even violence. In a recent study of women’s abortion experiences, 58.3 percent reported aborting to make others happy, and 73.8 percent said their decision to abort was not free from outside pressure. Homicide due to intimate partner violence is a leading cause of death during pregnancy. Imagine how much greater the coercive pressure to abort is on women who are being sexually exploited for profit.
One sex-trafficking survivor described her experience:
Over the years I had pimps and customers who hit me, punched me, kicked me, beat me, slashed me with a razor. I had forced unprotected sex and got pregnant three times and had two abortions at [a clinic]. Afterward, I was back out on the street again.
Abortion Data Among Trafficking Victims Is Shocking
A ground-breaking study by the Beazley Institute found 66 human-trafficking survivors had a total of 114 abortions — 114 abortions among 66 women. Let that sink in.
While only half of these women specified whether their abortions were voluntary or forced, of those who answered, a majority indicated that coercion played a role in at least one of their abortions. One survivor who endured six abortions recounted, “I was under serious pressure from my pimps to abort the babies.”
Two-thirds of trafficking survivors in the Beazley study had their abortions in clinics; nearly 30 percent said they went to Planned Parenthood. One survivor described her situation:
I got pregnant six times and had six abortions during this time. Several of them were from a doctor who was a client — he did them backdoor. … At least one of my abortions was from Planned Parenthood because they didn’t ask any questions. … You went backdoor where the charge was more like $150.
Several undercover investigations have documented Planned Parenthood’s failure to report rape, as well as its aiding and abetting of sex-trafficking. Planned Parenthood engages in this behavior unchecked, even as its latest financial report reveals a revenue of $1.6 billion.
Traffickers and Abortionists Profit from Human Suffering
Human-trafficking is a $150 billion per year global industry, the second-most profitable form of transnational crime after drug trafficking. It most frequently takes the form of sex-trafficking, which rakes in an estimated $99 billion per year. A study by the Urban Institute that interviewed pimps and traffickers found they can make anywhere from $5,000 to $32,833 a week. Women and girls make up 71 percent of their victims.
The pimps and traffickers interviewed in the Urban Institute study said the commercial sex industry is a low-risk, high-reward enterprise. Part of the reason sex-trafficking is so “low-risk” is due to our society’s lack of awareness, but could it also be due to a lack of intervention — perhaps even aiding and abetting — from those in direct contact with victims and traffickers? Doctors who exploit women for sex and abortion centers that turn a blind eye for profit, such as Planned Parenthood, enable the sex-trafficking industry.
The connection between abortion and sex-trafficking cannot be denied. Both are an affront to human dignity, and both are profiting from human suffering. The survivor of six abortions incurred severe infections from the scar tissue, necessitating a hysterectomy. She could no longer bear children if she wanted. Our message to her and all the other victims of commercialized sex-exploitation is this: We see you.
This January, it’s time for Americans to decide whether we will stand up for millions of women forced to endure trauma upon trauma and the innocent lives snuffed out, or continue to tolerate the abuses of the abortion and sex-trafficking industries.