Rep. McMorris Rodgers: Abortion Language in Human Trafficking Bill Not ‘Controversial’

Washington Republican argues ‘let’s keep the priority on human trafficking,’ discusses media role in ‘War on Women.’

A human trafficking bill has become all about abortion now – and one representative isn’t happy about it. 

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) spoke during a “War No More" panel hosted by Concerned Women for America (CWA) on March 16. The “War” at issue is the phony one on women liberals have trotted out the last couple of election cycles. In an interview with MRC Culture on topics pertaining to women, Rep. McMorris Rodgers argued that a human trafficking bill’s Hyde Amendment language shouldn’t be “controversial” – and stressed how the media “played a role” in the “War on Woman” messaging. 

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, a bipartisan-supported anti-human trafficking bill authored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), faced backlash on March 10 from Democrats because of inclusion of Hyde Amendment language, which bars federal funding for abortions. Senate Democrats filibustered the legislation on March 17. 

Addressing the human trafficking bill, McMorris Rodgers emphasized to MRC Culture, “I hope that we can keep the priority on actually doing something about human trafficking in America.” She explained how the “growing horrific crime” is present “right here” – not just overseas.

“This is again conservatives rising up and saying we need to take action,” she said of the bill. “[E]ven in last Congress the Hyde Amendment has long been the law of the land and it shouldn’t be brought into this one and make it controversial.” 

The act attempted to establish the Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund, which would have placed fines against traffickers towards helping trafficked victims. While Democrats feared the language would “expand” the Hyde Amendment to include fees and fines, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) argued that the fight was a “phony issue” because the amendment “contains an exception for rape and the health of the mother.” “[T]hese limitations on spending,” he argued on the Senate floor, “wouldn’t have anything to do about the services available to help, under this act, those victims of human trafficking.” 

During the interview, Rep. McMorris Rodgers also commented on how abortion plays into the “War on Women” mantra. “I think for many years, some on the other side would say to women that you’re a Democrat based upon abortion only,” she argued. 

But she also focused on how “hearts and minds are changing.” “You see where every year there’s more that are actually sympathetic to the pro-life position,” she said. “We need to be making sure that women feel like they can stand by their convictions clearly and strongly.” 

As for the “War on Women” messaging, Rep. McMorris Rodgers agreed that the media “played a role.” She reacted, “[A]s conservative women, it really is about making sure that we are setting the record straight that this is about empowering women, everyone in America, and the whole message to really lean in, believe in yourself, take risk, and that conservatives have solutions.” 

She concluded, “I think the media at times does not give as much time to conservative solutions as they do the other side.” 

The media have long pushed the so-called “War on Women” – while ignoring women in real danger.

Other panelists at the event speakers included American Conservative Union Foundation's Carly Fiorina, Independent Women's Forum’s Sabrina Schaeffer, The Polling Company Inc./Woman Trend's Kellyanne Conway and CWA’s Penny Nance. As the press release read, the panel fostered “dialogue on the continued messaging strategy to cast conservative principles as a ‘War on Women.’

— Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center. Follow Katie Yoder on Twitter.