The Complex Cultural Issues Surrounding Abortion, Including Sex-Trafficking and Pornography by Wendy Smith

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Through my professional career and volunteer work in prisons and anti-sex trafficking efforts, I have seen first-hand the trauma that results from homelessness, addictions, broken families, sexual assault/exploitation, pornography, and abortion. The purpose of this article is to implore the readers to explore the cultural complexities surrounding abortion, such as sex-trafficking and pornography, and how these issues enable traffickers to further exploit their victims.  I also hope to encourage you to address sex-trafficking as you advocate for life and human dignity.  

It is critical that those of us in the pro-life community understand the multifaceted cultural contributors, both upstream and downstream from the abortion event.  Proponents of abortion express concern for empowering women and women’s rights.  Victims of sex trafficking are not empowered by abortion.  Too often abortion enables the pimp/trafficker to further enslave and control their victims, further depriving them of their human dignity and rights.  Girls/women who are trafficked are often forced, coerced or threatened into sex trafficking, and often into having one or more abortions during the trafficking experience.  Pornography is another upstream cultural contributor.  Girls/women are often forced to view pornography for grooming, or forced into the production of pornography.   This is a human rights travesty.   Because our culture has dehumanized and devalued life in the womb, there is little value for human life in general.

Support for abortion has moved from “abortion should be safe, legal and rare” to the point where abortion is accepted up to birth.  Children represent a growing expendable commodity.  Just look at our border crisis.  Customs and Border Patrol estimated that traffickers made around $411.5 million dollars in February 2021.  Traffickers can make up to $5,000/child.  The number of children being trafficked is growing exponentially.   In an interview with Townhall.com Andrea Sparks, Child Sex Trafficking Team Director, stated –

“We are very concerned at the child sex trafficking team about the youth and the children who are coming across the border.  They are in a perfect storm of vulnerability.  They are scared.  They are confused and they are very likely to end up in the hands of an exploiter from what we know about human trafficking and how it works.”

In the same article on Townhall.com, Representative Burgess Owens (R-UT) noted,

“30 percent of the women and girls coming through this [migration] process are going to be raped…We can’t stand by and let that happen.  We have boys and girls as young as six or seven years old being pushed into sex trafficking…” 

There is also concern that the phone numbers these kids have, may not be their mother or relative, but a gang member or trafficker.  Even if they are relatives, the UN has reported that nearly half of child trafficking cases are linked to family members.

Keep in mind that human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise.   It is difficult to track statistics because of the criminal nature of this business.  Victims are not likely to self-identify.  They are often threatened with physical harm or harm to family members if they do.  They may fear law enforcement or have drug addictions.  As a result of grooming, minors may not realize they are being trafficked.  That said, we do have evidence that the abortion industry is complicit, or, at a minimum, turns a blind eye to the sexual abuse of minors.  

First, in a June 2018 letter sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, from then Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, which was co-signed by 55 of her congressional colleagues, she stated, 

“Despite the increased attention to combatting sexual abuse, the cases detailed in the enclosed report demonstrate that Planned Parenthood has continuously embraced a culture of turning a blind eye to suspected abuse. Rather than reporting suspicious incidents to authorities as state law often requires, Planned Parenthood has chosen repeatedly to perform abortions on children as young as 12 and 13 years old and then return these young clients to their abusers.”

LiveAction news has released at least 8 undercover videos which exposes Planned Parenthood (PPH) complicity in exploitation of minors.

Child pornography, child sexual abuse material, has increased exponentially.  According to Jurist, in 1998 there were over 3,000 legal cases involving child pornography.  By 2008 that number had increased to over 100,000.  Then in 2014 the number of cases rose to over 1 million.  More recently, in 2019, there were over 18.4 million cases globally.  Pornography drives the demand side of sex trafficking and it is just one of the upstream cultural issues contributing to abortion.

In 2019 I wrote a joint opinion piece for the American Association of Pro-life OB/GYNs  (AAPLOG) and the American College of Pediatricians.  As part of my research, I interviewed a survivor of sex trafficking and she shared incidental findings from a survey done by survivors for survivors of sex trafficking.  Pay close attention to these numbers:

  • 758 out of 1128 respondents reported being trafficked as children.  Of the 758, nearly 90% (683) had had one abortion as a minor (ages 11-17). 

  • 628 had had multiple abortions, sometimes at the same facility. 

  • None of them were separated from the traffickers or bottom who brought them in. 

  • None of them were asked for ID. 

  • All of them were given the abortion and not screened for their situation. 

  • All of them were sent home with their trafficker after the abortion, with birth control or some sort of prophylactic, and returned to the street.

Consider how medical abortion removes all barriers for traffickers.  In a March 20, 2021 article in Politico, entitled, Will at-home abortions make Roe v Wade obsolete?   Silvia Henriquez, who is the co-president of an abortion rights group, stated, 

“We are working towards a future where abortion care is there when we need it, where it’s affordable, accessible and on our terms, without barriers.  Medication abortion gets us closer to that world – where it doesn’t matter who we are, how much we earn, or where we live.”

The Biden administration is under pressure from progressive members of Congress and groups such as the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and, of course, Planned Parenthood to remove barriers to abortion and to make access to telemedicine abortions a reality.  Fortunately the AAPLOG has been active and vocal in their opposition (see their documentary).  Imagine the impact on minors being exploited and/or abused.  Perpetrators will avoid being exposed, purchasing the abortion pill over-the-counter or on-line, without prescriptions, eliminating the need for evaluation by provider.  The victims might not know what they are taking, or they could be forced to take the pills.  If victims experience complications, more than likely they would be told they’d had a miscarriage.  We must not let restrictions on abortion pills be lifted!  As Alina Salganicoff, Director of Women’s Health Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Politico –

“It [medical abortion] takes the fight out of the clinic setting into individual people’s homes.  That becomes much more difficult to regulate and could potentially broaden access.”

Kristi Hamrick, with Students for Life, warned

“Chemical abortion really puts Roe vs Wade on steroids.  Roe made abortion possible anywhere in the country during all nine months of pregnancy, but this is really a new frontier – doing it virtually and chemically.

Keep in mind, Planned Parenthood is pushing to have clinics available on high school and college campuses across this nation.  Students in middle school through college represent the target age group for traffickers.  Pimps/traffickers are not just gang members, they can be friends/classmates.  In addition to family members, 26-27% of traffickers are friends or intimate partners of their victims.  Imagine a minor (12-18 or younger) being trafficked, raped by 10 adult customers a night, making around $1000/night for her trafficker.   It is not hard to imagine her getting pregnant.  The trafficker takes her for an abortion,  she will be given some form of  birth control, returned to her trafficker, only to be back on the street that night.  

Abortion is not just “women’s health or women’s choice”.  We must not let Planned Parenthood or the pro-choice organizations control the narrative any longer.  

What do we do?  

First, if you were the victim of sexual abuse or sex trafficking as a minor and had an abortion, please  consider telling your story.  It just takes a few courageous survivors to encourage others to come forward.  The same goes for individuals who work for, or have worked in, the abortion industry – if you’ve witnessed such abuses, tell your story. 

Second, educate yourself and those in your sphere of influence about sex-trafficking.

Third, if you are a researcher or can fund research, survey survivors of sex-trafficking about their trafficking trajectory.

Fourth, push for legislation that requires greater scrutiny and accountability from abortion providers and advocate for girls/women who are being trafficked in your rationale.  

Fifth, speak Truth with compassion.  Understand that many girls/women are coerced into having an abortion.  Make your community a safe and caring community. Support crisis pregnancy centers.  

Finally, recognize that pornography is a growing public health crisis feuling the demand side of sex trafficking and in-turn abortion.  Join with over a dozen states and advocate to identify pornography as a public health crisis in your state.

Wendy J. Smith, RN, MSN, ACNP, AOCN, has worked in the medical field for over 30 years, specializing in hematology/oncology.



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