Lone House Democratic Co-Sponsor Of Trafficking Bill Jumps Ship Over Anti-Abortion Provision

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans just lost the one Democratic co-sponsor they had on a bill aimed at curbing human trafficking.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday night that she is pulling her name off the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act because of an anti-abortion provision that Republicans tucked into it.

“I have removed my name from H.R. 296 … because it includes abortion restrictive language that I do not support," Maloney said in a statement. "I have spoken with [the bill's GOP sponsor] about this misunderstanding and we are both hopeful that we can do whatever possible to stop human trafficking."

Maloney is the second Democrat this week to pull her co-sponsorship of the bill, which creates a fund to help trafficking victims through fees charged to their abusers. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) took her name off the Senate version of the bill last week, as soon as she found out about the anti-abortion rider.

"They added the new language quietly, hoping nobody would notice, then we'd all march down there," Boxer said in a Senate floor speech. "I put my name on this bill, by the way, because my staff trusted the Republican staff when they said there wasn't any change in abortion language. How awful it was for my staff that they said to me, 'Senator, we feel terrible, we took their word.' And I got my name off this bill."

The legislation was expected to easily pass the Senate last week, until Democrats noticed that Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) added in Hyde Amendment language, which restricts federal funding for abortion and other health care services. That would mean victims who would receive compensation from the fund would not be able to use it toward an abortion.

Twelve Democrats are still co-sponsors of the Senate bill: Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Chris Coons (Del.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

The Huffington Post reached out to all of their offices on Wednesday to see if they were considering pulling their support over the abortion provision. Aides to Coons and Feinstein responded, and neither indicated plans to do so.

Of the remaining co-sponsors, only Casey and Heitkamp voted to move forward with the bill Tuesday. Two other Democrats did so as well.

The fact that Democrats are rethinking their co-sponsorship of the bill undercuts Republicans' arguments about the bipartisan nature of the legislation. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) touted the bill as "one of the most bipartisan pieces of legislation you could possibly imagine."

Cornyn said Monday it was "genuinely bipartisan legislation" with "twelve Democratic co-sponsors and virtually an equal number of Republican co-sponsors."

Some GOP supporters of the bill say the abortion provision never should have been added to the legislation.

"My wish is we hadn't junked that bill up with abortion politics," Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told reporters Tuesday. "Let's just stand for the principle that we are all against slavery and keep the bill clean of extraneous measures."

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