ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Sex trafficking victims gathered in Albany on Tuesday to share their stories and urge lawmakers to pass stronger criminal penalties for forcing someone into sexual servitude.
Despite widespread support, the measure failed last year after it was included in legislation that also contained a controversial abortion provision. This year, it’s been introduced as a stand-alone bill.
The women who spoke at Tuesday’s event near the Statehouse said lawmakers shouldn’t delay action on human trafficking because of unrelated debates about abortion policy.
One 18-year-old New York City woman related how she was kidnapped at age nine, sold into sexual slavery and forced to sleep in a locked closet. She says the bill would crack down on trafficking while making it easier for victims to get help.
“Every minute that passes there is a child or a teen who is being sexually trafficked,” the woman said. “It is happening right here in New York.”
The Associated Press does not identify the victims of sex crimes.
Last year, the bill foundered after it was included in a multi-faceted bill that also contained a measure that would have matched New York abortion law with the rights spelled out in the Roe v. Wade decision. The Senate objected to that piece of the legislation, but supporters of the abortion language in the Assembly refused to split up the bill.
On Tuesday, Andrea Miller, president of the group NARAL Pro-Choice New York, said the human trafficking and abortion measures — along with several other components from the failed bill — should remain linked.
“We shouldn’t be forced to choose which of our rights will be protected,” she said in a statement.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin is the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly. The Scarsdale Democrat said she’s optimistic that tougher penalties for trafficking will pass this year as a stand-alone bill.
A vote on the bill has not been scheduled.