However, the department decided the latter two groups should receive funding and that the bishops’ group should be denied.
According to Sheldon, the scores were merely advisory, and additional information was considered as well.
However, several congressmen questioned this judgment and referenced the review abstracts evaluating each of the applicants.
Reviewers noted that the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services provided “a comprehensive plan” that addressed all of the program’s objectives. The review also said that the group was among the “most experienced national experts on human trafficking” and possessed a “wealth of knowledge” and a “broad reach across the country.”
Although Tapestri had multiple strengths, reviewers gave the organization a lower score, observing that most program staff members “have limited or unrelated education” for managing the grant and “lack the training and experience” to perform the tasks laid out by the grant.
In comments to CNA, Wagner said that department leadership is putting trafficking victims at “tremendous risk” by placing them in the hands of less-qualified organizations.
He argued that abortion and contraception are not among the “needs” of trafficking victims that the federal program should seek to address.
Wagner explained that trafficking victims are often very young and under the complete control of a trafficker, so they cannot give their informed consent for procedures such as abortion and sterilization.
Furthermore, he said, pregnancy sometimes leads women to escape from their captors, while it is the trafficker who benefits most from an abortion, because it allows the victim to be “back on the market” again sooner.
Wagner also noted problems reported with abortion clinics facilitating trafficking by providing abortions but failing to report suspicions of sex trafficking to the authorities.
There is nothing to prevent individuals from obtaining contraception after they are freed, he said, but such a decision should not fall within the realm of a federal trafficking program.
(Story continues below)
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Wagner said that it was “sad” to see the Department of Health and Human Services making an “entirely political” decision and sacrificing the “best interest of the victims” in order to do so.
Michelle La Rosa is deputy editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency. She has worked for CNA since 2011. She studied political philosophy and journalism at the University of Dallas.