In the US and around the world, an estimated 21 million people are enslaved against their will. This number includes millions of women and girls who are forced into sexual slavery, often as weapons of war.
Last year, The New York Times broke the story that ISIS uses birth control to perpetuate sexual slavery:
“To keep the sex trade running, [ISIS] fighters have aggressively pushed birth control on their victims so they can continue the abuse unabated while the women are passed among them.”
The NYT article is a sobering reminder that birth control and abortion can be tools not of sexual liberation and freedom, but of sexual coercion and oppression.
Here in the United States, sex traffickers are known to employ abortion to perpetuate abuse and exploitation of women. A 2014 study by the US State Department found that 55% of the women surveyed who were victims of human trafficking had at least one abortion, and 30% had multiple abortions during the time of trafficking. Laura J. Lederer, the Senior Adviser on Trafficking for the US State Department, noted that “the prevalence of forced abortions is an especially disturbing trend in sex trafficking.”
Pregnancy centers like CareNet are training staff to recognize signs of human trafficking and help women who might be trapped in exploitation and abuse.
On National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, we charge ALL women’s organizations and healthcare organizations to recognize the role contraception and abortion can play in hiding many victims’ continued oppression. Healthcare workers must be on notice to look for the signs that reveal whether women-especially those who are underage-are being coerced into sex.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a toll-free hotline available to answer calls from anywhere in the USA, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the Center at 1-888-373-7888 if you need help or have a tip! The NHTRC is not a law enforcement or immigration authority and is operated by an NGO funded by the government.