Missouri Family E-News

March 22, 2016

U.S. Senate Goes After
Online Sex Traffickers  

The United States Senate has initiated contempt proceedings against an online classified advertising company that is believed to be a thriving marketplace for sex trafficking.

The Senate voted 96-0 last week to approve a resolution finding Backpage.com in contempt of Congress.  Officials from Backpage have ignored two subpoenas to appear before the Investigations Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Backpage has long been a target of those fighting human trafficking in the United States.  Backpage is a sleazy hotbed of classified advertising for individuals seeking or offering sexual encounters and "escort services."

It is estimated that Backpage generates profits of more than $10 million per month from online "sex for hire" classified ads.

Individuals engaged in the sexual trafficking of children are widely believed to be using the website to market the "sexual services" of the young girls they have entrapped in the sex trade.

More than 400 cases of child sex trafficking have been linked to the website in recent years, including six in Missouri.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that nearly three-quarters of the reports it receives through its tip line of suspected child trafficking have a connection to the Backpage website.

"Sex trafficking has thrived on the Internet in part because of the high profitability and relatively low risk associated with advertising trafficking victims' services online in multiple locations," the Senate subcommittee report states.

"With the aid of online advertising, traffickers can maximize profits, evade law-enforcement detection, and maintain control of victims by transporting them quickly within and between states," the report continues.

The U.S. Congress recently enacted a new law known as the SAVE Act (for Stop Advertising Victims of Sexual Exploitation).  The measure, which was strongly pushed by Missouri Congresswoman Ann Wagner, prohibits the online advertising of minors for purposes of commercial sexual activity.

Backpage has filed suit in federal court seeking to strike down the law.  The company says that they should not be subject to criminal liability "for providing a forum for speech that some individuals misuse for sex trafficking."

Yet company officials have refused to testify before the U.S. Senate to explain how they are screening online ads to limit the posting of the "sexual services" of underage women.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has been a leader of the Senate effort to shine the light on the ugly business practices of Backpage.  She says enforcement of the subpoenas will help government officials to "truly find out what role Backpage has had in the highly immoral practice of trafficking children for sex."

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt also cheered the Senate's contempt citation.  "Sex trafficking is one of the most vile crimes committed against the most vulnerable victims.  We must not only target the sex traffickers themselves, but also the enablers like Backpage, that are equally as culpable for the growing scourge of online sex trafficking."

Arizona Senator John McCain deplored the company's defiance of the Senate subpoenas.  "I've been in the Senate a long time, and I have never seen anything quite like it.  We will send a message--they can run, but they can't hide."

McCain's wife, Cindy, operates a foundation devoted to combatting human trafficking.

The Missouri House has also passed legislation this session making it a state crime to advertise the availability of minors for sexual contact.

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Parental Notification
Bill for Abortions
Wins House Approval
The Missouri House of Representatives has approved legislation which would require that both parents of a minor child seeking an abortion be notified before an abortion can be performed. 

The proposal, House Bill 1370, is sponsored by Representative Rocky Miller of Lake Ozark.  The legislation was given final passage in the House last week by a vote of 121-34.

Missouri has long required that an abortion cannot be performed on a minor without the written consent of a parent or guardian.  The state's parental consent statute was first adopted by the Missouri General Assembly.

Federal courts have ruled over the years that states cannot legally require the consent of both parents, but can require the consent of one parent and the notification of the other.

Under the provisions of the bill, the parent granting consent to an abortion for their minor child must notify any other "custodial parent" or guardian in writing prior to the performance of the abortion.  A "custodial parent" is defined as the other parent in a home where the parents have not divorced or separated, or where the other parent has been awarded joint legal or joint physical custody of the child as a result of dissolution of the marriage.

Notification of the other parent is not required when that parent has been found guilty of sexual crimes or crimes against the child or the family; when that parent is listed on the sexual offender registry or the child abuse or neglect registry; when that parent is the subject of an order of protection; or a parent whose whereabouts are unknown "after reasonable inquiry."

Representative Miller says he was inspired to sponsor the bill after an incident that occurred years ago in his own family.  Miller says he was called by his ex-wife informing him that his 15 year-old daughter was pregnant.

"She said, 'We're at Planned Parenthood...and you need to get over here...What are we gonna do?'" Miller says he was blessed that they were able to talk through the issue as a family and that his daughter decided to give birth to the child, who is today Representative Miller's 10 year-old granddaughter. 

Miller says he remains haunted by the thought that the abortion could have occurred and he would have not known anything about it.  He says he would have felt heartbroken that he had no opportunity to provide support, encouragement, and counsel to his daughter in a moment of crisis.

Representative Diane Franklin of Camdenton, the Chairwoman of the House Children and Families Committee, agreed that decisions about a child's unintended pregnancy should involve discussion by the family as a whole.  "Bringing life, working through life, choosing life, is a healing process, it is a loving process, it is a valued process."
Opponents of the bill argued that in many families parents do not have healthy relationships with their children.  Representative Anne Zerr of St. Charles responded forcefully to that generalization.  "I was from one of those non-perfect families.  There was physical abuse, there was sexual abuse.  I got out of that, and today I am proudly pro-life."

What the opponents of the bill fail to mention is that a minor child who is unable to obtain the consent of a parent to procure an abortion, is able to go to court to obtain the permission of a judge to have an abortion performed.   Federal courts have always insisted that parental consent laws contain such an option, which is most often referred to as the "judicial bypass" process.

Under Missouri law, a minor may file a petition in juvenile court seeking legal authority to self-consent to an abortion.  A judge may grant such permission if he or she concludes that "the minor is of sound mind and has sufficient intellectual capacity to consent to the abortion," and that the abortion "is is in the best interest" of the minor child.

Representative Sonya Anderson of Springfield has also filed legislation to tighten up Missouri's parental consent statutes.  Under her bill, House Bill 1968, a parent granting consent to a minor's abortion must provide government-issued proof of identity establishing that the person is truly the lawful parent or legal guardian of the minor child. 

It has long been believed that older men who have impregnated young girls have claimed to be the parent of the child in order to remove evidence of their crime of statutory rape.  Undercover videos have revealed the willingness of Planned Parenthood to enable sexual predators to cover up instances of illegal sex with minors by providing abortions to teenage girls.

Representative Anderson's bill has been heard by the House Children and Families Committee, but has not been advanced to the House floor for formal debate. 

Representative Miller's bill now moves to the Senate with plenty of time left in the session for it to be taken up for debate and voted on in that chamber.  The House approved Representative Miller's bill two years ago, but it then died in the Senate.  We pray that it does not experience the same fate this year.

You can contact your state senator to urge them to vote for House Bill 1370, the parental notification bill, by using this link:
Missouri Senate

Joe's Signature