Religion has no place in the debate over human trafficking

Jeanne Mancini, in an op-ed posted at The Hill, argues that the Obama administration’s rule ensuring survivors of human trafficking have access to the medical care they need is somehow “radical” (“Obama administration tightens grant rules for religious groups,” July 21). But what is truly radical is her suggestion that a federal contractor’s religious beliefs about contraception and abortion should dictate what medical care this vulnerable population can and cannot receive. 

Unfortunately, she isn’t the only one making that radical argument. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which contracts with the government, has argued the same thing. According to the bishops, the government’s priority should not be what is best for a trafficking survivor based on her own medical needs and conscience. Rather, it should be to ensure that religious groups can get government contracts, even if that means refusing services to survivors. Of course, the bishops have every right to their religious beliefs. But what they don’t have is a right to get millions of dollars in federal money each year and then prevent survivors from getting the critical services they need and are entitled to in a program the federal government pays for.   

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And, not only would denying survivors the medical care they need be immoral, it would be illegal. Federal law entitles trafficking survivors access to contraception and abortion. And, as a court ruled in a case brought by the ACLU a few years ago, a government policy that allows religious contractors to deny survivors these services would also violate the Constitution. 

Trafficking victims endure the most horrific conditions imaginable. Once a woman escapes the hands of her trafficker, she should be able to make medical decisions based on her own conscience and beliefs, not those of an organization that has decided to apply for a federal contract. The government’s focus should be on ensuring that she has access to the care she needs. No one should have to experience the horrors of being trafficked, and no one should have their rights taken away.

From Brigitte Amiri, American Civil Liberties Union senior staff attorney, New York


The climate of patent litigation is a blight on innovation

In response to The Hill’s July 21 article on The Innovation Act’s delayed vote (“McCarthy: ‘More work’ needed before patent reform gets vote”), it’s important to note how abusive, frivolous patent litigation has shifted into high gear. Recent statistics show an all-time high of more than 3,000 patent lawsuits being filed in the first half of this year alone. 

No business is immune to the constant threat of bad actors. Without the changes we need in current law, the number of abusive patent lawsuits will only continue to climb — and innovation will suffer as a result.

A well-functioning patent system is vital to America’s innovation economy, and legislation is an integral and overdue part of correcting current abuses of the system. We commend legislators working on the Innovation Act for recognizing the importance of software patents by not putting in place policies that discriminate against software inventions. 

At the end of the day, legislation like the Innovation Act is about making life more difficult for bad actors and better for innovative companies. Here’s hoping lawmakers ultimately succeed with this much-needed opportunity to eliminate this unnecessary drain on innovation.

From Victoria Espinel, president and CEO, BSA | The Software Alliance, Washington, D.C.