By: Rachel Citak, Opinion Contributor
Originally published September 8, 2023 in Cincinnati Enquirer / cincinnati.com
This Nov. 2, Berry Norman is scheduled for sentencing on his guilty plea for illicit sexual conduct charges related to the trafficking of two Ohio minors (ages 14 and 15) which he met in the Cincinnati area and allegedly attempted to lure across state lines. As alleged in the complaint and article entitled, “New York man charged with luring minors from Cincinnati-area for sex work,” Norman “tried to get the two to have sex with men for money and live-stream sexual activities over the Internet…”
Despite being published on April Fool’s Day, this title was no joke − it was a troubling deviation from federal and state law prohibiting trafficking of minors (U.S.C. § 1591, O.R.C. §2907.21). While cultural decay may freely swap sex trafficking and abuse with terms like “sex work” and “adult entertainment,” the reality isn’t anything like “Pretty Woman” or “Taken.”
I spent a year volunteering as a House Mom for trafficked minors in Ohio. For the predators, pimps and traffickers who subject women and children to “sex work” in our home state, this is not a mere choice in occupation, career, or “work” at all − it is coercion and abuse in and of itself. I was also horrified to learn the disturbing nexus between commoditizing the bodies of girls and women, and subjecting them to forced abortions.
A Lederer and Wetzel study analyzed responses from over 100 human trafficking survivors and noted that, “the prevalence of forced abortion is an especially disturbing trend among victims of human trafficking.” More than half of survivors reported having at least one abortion, some as many as six abortions. Of these responses, 25% report forced or coerced abortion.
Survivors in the study most commonly reported making contact with Planned Parenthood facilities, like the one in Cincinnati on Auburn Avenue. In the days when my grandmother protested on their sidewalk, this location was formerly known as the Margaret Sanger Center − hearkening to its racist roots in eugenics and destruction of the Black race. Even though Black people only make up 13% of our nation’s population, we continue to be disproportionately victimized by human trafficking and abortion. Around 40% of women seeking abortion are Black, and around 40% of human trafficking victims are Black as well, according to the Annual Black Women’s Roundtable Report and the CDC, respectively. In Ohio, Black women make up 49% of abortions.
Ohio remains among the top states for human trafficking. In 2009, two fellow attorney colleagues represented an Ohio abuse victim who was impregnated by local soccer coach, John Haller. After the victim became pregnant in 2004 as a 13-year-old eighth grader, Haller drove the victim to Planned Parenthood, destroying the evidence of his abuse without her parents’ knowledge or consent.
Under the Issue 1 constitutional amendment in November, abortion advocates will oppose parental consent and notification as a “burden” that will “interfere” with profiting from performing abortions on vulnerable minors brought in by pimps, traffickers, or abusers − a.k.a. “a person or entity that assists an individual” in receiving an abortion.
Kellie Copeland of Pro-Choice Ohio recently admitted that there was “not really” any concern put into protecting parental consent in Ohio when drafting the amendment. This jibes well with the nationwide and statewide push from URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity) to “end parental involvement laws” (Twitter “X” @URGE 4/28/22, 7/17/20, 7/29/19), as well as the push now to end parental consent in Michigan where an abortion amendment recently passed.
The reality is that Ohio parents are what often stands between children and the dangers of trafficking and abuse. And under November Issue 1, parents’ hands are tied.
A “person or entity that assists an individual” in abortion − and abuse − will be shielded while parents are unable to engage law enforcement to “directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, [or] interfere…” By using the term “individual” rather than woman or adult in the text of the amendment, November’s Issue 1 necessarily and purposefully includes minors in its reach. Currently under Ohio law, abortion providers are required to report abuse to law enforcement as mandatory reporters. However, amendments supersede or “trump” statutes in power. Under the November Issue 1 amendment, the “burden” of reporting abuse and obtaining parental consent would be struck down as interfering with the “right” to abortion. Law enforcement as the “state” would be unable to “prohibit [or] interfere” by helping parents intervene.
This is how the Issue 1 amendment will become unnecessarily entangled with parental consent and mandatory reporting in a losing battle over constitutionality. Understand that if Issue 1 passes in November, any current health and safety requirements protecting girls and women from unsanitary conditions or dangerous abortions through all nine months will also be obliterated.
Under Issue 1, your child will not even be promised that the abortion provider is a licensed doctor, let alone one with admission privileges to a nearby hospital should any emergencies occur during the abortion. The decision of whether a lucrative and dangerous late-term abortion for your daughter is deemed “necessary” will be decided by the abortionist profiting from the procedure.
After all, the amendment states that abortion may be limited if the abortionist determines viability − it does not state that abortions shall be prohibited after viability. Even this low bar can be overcome if the abortionist deems it necessary for the “health” of the “pregnant patient.” And health does not simply refer to life and death − “health” has been legally expanded by federal court in Ohio’s sixth circuit to include financial, emotional and mental factors. This means that abortionist can perform an abortion through all nine months of pregnancy up to birth for any reason related to money, emotions, or mental state.
Abortion facilities operate for profit at the expense of young girls and women. This encourages a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality towards consent and mandatory reporting in the abortion industry, as showcased in Denise Fairbanks v. Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region et al. Under Issue 1, the Ohio Constitution will not support your right to be notified if your child is pregnant and someone brings her to Planned Parenthood on Auburn Avenue. The evidence of her impregnation will be destroyed as her body can continue to be commoditized and trafficked.
And that is an abuser’s best-kept secret.
Rachel Citak, of Anderson Township, is a civil rights and constitutional law attorney and serves as President of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. She is a member of the Enquirer editorial board. Instagram: @attorneyadvocate Twitter: @atlaw_atheart.