Human Trafficking Bill Raises Abortion Debate

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The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill to change penalties for human traffickers. No one spoke out against those penalties.

Everyone who testified on Senate bill 2107 thought it was the right method to help combat the human trafficking problem in the state.

But, some people had an issue with the last section of the bill, which says state funding provided to an agency offering support services for victims of human trafficking can not be used to refer for or counsel someone to have an abortion.

"Abortion was in no way addressed in the original version of 2107 and in fact none of the states that have passed the uniform act have amended it in such a way. This kind of infringement on women healthcare and fundamental individual rights should not be tolerated in a bill that us designed to preserve and expand those rights," said Bismarck resident Rebecca Matthews.

The North Dakota Catholic Conference requested that the language be added in the bill when it was in the Senate earlier this session. They say it maintains what has already been policy in the state.

"Nationally and locally there exists a push to use tax funding for abortion related counseling, especially in the context of providing services for trafficked victims. North Dakota legislators however have consistently prevented the use of tax money for those activities, and our efforts to help victims of human trafficking should not become a vehicle to change North Dakota policy on tax dollars on abortion," said Christopher Dodson, North Dakota Catholic Conference.

Some lawmakers brought up concerns about what this would mean if a woman specifically asks about abortion services. The committee will meet at a later date to vote on the bill and decide if the abortion language stays or should be removed.

The bill would make trafficking an adult a Class A felony and trafficking a minor a Class AA felony. It would also place harsher penalties on people who engage in sex with someone they know is a minor.