Human Trafficking & Abortion: Not the Same Thing, Not Equivalent

Pope

The constant link to equate human trafficking with abortion is harmful to the one that’s actually a crime.

I’m all for as many people as possible joining the fight against human trafficking. The people out there working to combat this complicated, devastating crime need all the help they can get. That said, I believe it’s irresponsible to lump the crime President Obama called “…one of the great human rights abuses of our time” with an issue all too often wrapped up in political and religious dogma.

For starters, the many people I’ve talked to who frequently link the two actually have no idea what human trafficking is. What they learned of it comes from movies or advertisements and therefore they believe human trafficking is only synonymous with violent sex slavery. They speak of handcuffs and basements and force-fed women eating from dog bowls. Many others simply equate it with “sinful” sexual conduct and therefore human trafficking is simply a newer term for prostitution. What’s equally frustrating is that many of the people I speak of in this category feel no additional need to learn more about human trafficking. They know it’s bad, like abortion, so it’s game over. Unfortunately, they spread the results of their game. They make documentaries that lack research and they speak of the crime as though it only impacts women. Churches pump awareness campaigns and rake in the money and though much of it does fuel terrific work, much also simply stirs the pot of misinformation or is used to send “missionaries” out to feed “lost” victims the light of Christ. For a brief introduction to what human trafficking is, check out The Misconceptions of Human Trafficking. Here are a few tweets floating around out there:

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Why does all of this matter?

(1) Because those always radically tying the two are merely using the waves in the human trafficking industry to bolster the effectiveness for their longstanding argument against abortion. They often aren’t adding anything new to combat the crime and many times they offer advice like this that only serves to weaken the movement:

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(2) In linking one of the world’s worst crimes with abortion, they are casting the net of criminality on all women who have had an abortion, are thinking of having an abortion or who will need one in the future. Those who support abortion, by default, are also criminals. And not just vandals of some sort, no, some of the world’s worst. This kind of unfair criminal linkage can not only add acute stress to those contemplating abortion, but I’d argue that it can leave a kind of psychosocial residue that can have long-term negative consequences.

(3) Because the fight against human trafficking needs to have thoughtful leaders like Nicholas Kristof and Somaly Mam at the forefront, not people who forcefully claim to know the unknowable and say things like:

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(4) Because a woman raped should never also have to contend with nonsense like this:

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If you are personally against abortion, fine. But to equate it with a completely different issue, to conflate it with a crime that it has nothing in common with, is grossly dishonest and profoundly insensitive. If you have to rely on dishonesty to spread your message, you are doing something wrong.

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About Cameron Conaway

Cameron Conaway is a former MMA fighter, an award-winning poet and the 2014 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State Altoona. He is the author of Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet, Bonemeal: Poems, Until You Make the Shore and Malaria, Poems. Conaway is also on the Editorial Board at Slavery Today. Follow him on Google+ and on Twitter: @CameronConaway.

Comments

  1. In response to the title image, the “WTF is this??” arrow…

    It looks to me like a social media ad placed in the middle of the article – not uncommon in online advertising anymore, and the ads rarely have specific bearing on the content of the article itself. I clicked on several more of Elise Hilton’s articles and all of them had the “Click here to Like if you are Pro-Life” line in them, at seemingly random spots in the text.

    This leads me to believe that this is an automatically-added advertisement affiliated with the larger publication, NOT a deliberately-chosen attempt to conflate two unrelated issues. In other words, I don’t think Elise stopped typing and said “This would be the perfect spot to promote the Pro-Life page” and inserted the link. Whoever, or whatever, manages/edits the site content was responsible for the ad placement, obviously without attention to the actual content of the article.

  2. Excellent article, Cameron. I think if people, especially activist types, really want to know what human trafficking is, they should talk to actual surviving victims of it. There are some of us out here. I know of myself and a woman survivor; we grew up in different child sex rings, right here in the USA. I get sick of male victims and survivors being ignored, and I get angry at those who try to lump sex trafficking in with prostitution. Then again, Damien in “Heart and Balls” here on GMP called casual sex “violence against women and ourselves”, so this sort of wrongful equation is running rampant these days…. Thanks for all the hard work you do to help.

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