Three months ago, I fretted that the Democrats were unwilling to compromise with the GOP over a human-trafficking bill. The issue was over a provision preventing funds collected under the bill from being spent on abortions for the victims. Given that the U.S. Congress has regularly prevented federal funds from being used for abortions, I thought that this was crazy base-servicing. I also thought that if the Democrats kept this up, refusing to compromise on ideological grounds, it would mean bad things for the Republic.
In comments, I got some pushback.
- McDevite said that the Democratic stance (as I presented it) was not as crazy as similar Republican base-servicing.
- Logan (who is paid to know this stuff!) explained that the issue was not the prohibition of federal funds, which is a standard thing, but the fact that the prohibition would be permanent.
- George pointed out that the funds in question were from fines imposed on criminal organizations, not tax monies.
- Finally, co-blogger Doug Muir added that the GOP has a terrible terrible record as far as anything having to do with international development is concerned.
First my response; then what happened.
- McDevite: true but irrelevant. I worried that this was a sign that the Democratic Party was heading in the direction of the GOP: an ideologically-driven party run by the true believers, rather than pragmatists. I do not think that the Democrats have arrived at that point.
- Logan: I understand the logic. I do not understand why that is worth killling the bill over, considering as the prohibitions are not going anywhere. You are right that I am more sympathetic to that issue than I am to a fight over spending on abortions, but the truth is that the bill as it stood allowed the federal government to pay for abortions used to terminate pregnancies that were the result of rape.
- George: That is interesting! Tell me more! Which federally-run (but not funded) programs are we talking about?
- Doug: agreed, but as with McDevite’s comment I do not see the relevance.
George seems to have gotten it right! The two parties compromised by stating that fines would only be used to provide legal services to the victims, whereas health services would come from a separate pot of tax money. The tax money would not fund abortion, but anti-abortion restrictions would not be explicitly extended to non-tax money. Implicitly, of course, the bill would prevent the non-tax money from being spent on abortion because it would prevent them from being spent on any health services.
Which also means that McDevite got it right: this was not a sign of crazy base world. Which is not to say that I do not worry about the Democrats going the way of the Republicans: I do. But this story, at least, ended creditably.