The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) this week lost a federal contract for working with victims of sex trafficking. The group has been awarded a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) since 2006. The first was a five-year contract worth $19 million, which has been renewed since then.
In 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued over the arrangement, claiming the contract is “unconstitutional” because USCCB neither provides abortions nor refers sex trafficking victims to other groups that perform them. The ACLU sued on behalf of people complaining about their tax dollars being used to support religious considerations. That case will be heard in a federal court in Massachusetts on Oct. 18. Though USCCB leaders said they don’t officially know the reason the contract was dropped, odds are good it’s because they allow their religious faith to play a role in how they counsel women. Under the Obama administration, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act says HHS will give “strong preference” to groups willing to do referrals “for the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”