The American Civil Liberties Union charged in a suit filed yesterday that some funds distributed through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act by the Department of Health and Human Services were in violation of the separation of church and state. The suit alleges that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have received Health and Human Services funds under the trafficking act, refused to work with subcontractors who provided contraceptives, including condoms, or abortion services, according to Reuters.
The ACLU charged that the absence of these services is a health risk to sex-trafficking victims, who have higher rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and that failing to provide basic sex education will increase victims’ risk of future exposure to disease, according to the Boston Globe. In a ” press release, the ACLU said that “We are asking the court to stop the misuse of taxpayer dollars and to protect the health and safety of trafficking victims.”
Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the federal government provided $6 million in grants to the organization in question from 2006 to 2008. Carol Gomez, the founder of MataHari, a nonprofit that provides services to sex-trafficking victims, told Associated Press that “part of the healing process is returning power back to the victim, and this means for the person to have full rights over determining his or her medical care issues and his or her reproductive health issues.”