By Debbie Shinskie, Guest Columnist
the local abortion facility, an older man drives a car with four young women in
the back into the patient parking lot. Those praying on the sidewalk are
concerned, not only with the fact that they are entering an abortion facility,
but also with the suspicious dynamics in this group. In a separate incident,
across town at the Catholic pregnancy health care center, a woman breaks down
and shares with the nurse that a man is selling her for sex and she might be
Archdiocese of New Orleans Respect Life Office's active engagement in a human
trafficking awareness campaign helped those praying on the sidewalk and the
pregnancy center staff to recognize the signs of human trafficking and make appropriate
calls to report it. Through a collaborative effort with local service
providers, the young woman at the health center was quickly relocated to a safe
house for sex trafficking victims.
Orleans is a known destination for human trafficking. The popular,
tourist-driven economy and convenient location allow for a "market" for both
buyers and sellers of these victims. Sadly, it's a microcosm of the trafficking
going on across the country.
gathered from the Polaris Project's National
Human Trafficking Hotline reveal that most of the
U.S. female human trafficking victims are sold for sex, often multiple times
each day, up to seven days a week. According to current
research, female victims are very likely to conceive a child
at some point, even if
they regularly use birth control. Traffickers often force these women to then abort
any child conceived. So, fighting the modern-day slavery of human trafficking
is a deeply pro-life endeavor – for women and their unborn children, alike.
around the country are developing various ways to respond to this urgent
situation. The Archdiocese of New Orleans' local response is part of a
comprehensive approach modeled on the U.S. bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities,
the Catholic blueprint for respect life activities at the national and local
addition to raising public awareness about sex trafficking, the multi-faceted
approach includes a train-the-trainer element. Recent statistics indicate that
87% of trafficking survivors had contact with a healthcare provider during the
time they were being trafficked, with 57% of these situations involving a
women's clinic, urgent care facility, or some other type of neighborhood
clinic. Catholic healthcare providers, those who pray and counsel outside
abortion facilities, and others who might encounter trafficking victims are
getting the training they need to recognize and assist victims.
awareness about human trafficking helps us partner with care providers through
our donations and services for victims and survivors. It also serves our
advocacy efforts at the local, state, and federal levels to affect changes
the foundational work of prayer cannot be emphasized enough. This has grown
into a whole new ministry, our Respect Life Prayer Team. Orchestrated by one of
our Human Trafficking Committee members, the team leads a prayer effort
involving hundreds around the archdiocese, including those who are retired, physically
challenged, homebound, in assisted care residences, and others who cannot
otherwise participate in this work.
Church will keep fighting this evil hidden in plain sight. In addition to
praying for the development of effective ministries for sex trafficking
victims, check with your local diocese to see what resources are available for
those most at risk.
Debbie Shinskie is
Director of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Respect Life Office.
For more on the U.S. bishops' efforts and resources to combat human
trafficking, visit www.usccb.org/stopslavery.