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Groups advocating for women's rights and both conservative and progressive Christian causes banded together Thursday (Nov. 1) to push for changes in a human trafficking bill in the House of Representatives.

The coalition is generally in support of the bill, but says it should be expanded to cover prostitution within the United States. In fact, they want Congress to equate pimping in the U.S. to international human trafficking, and make it easier to prosecute those who hire out prostitutes.

It's an argument that has found an unlikely assortment of allies ranging from Gloria Steinem on the left through progressive Christian leader Jim Wallis to evangelical and Southern Baptist leaders on the right.

However, equating pimping with trafficking rests on the notion that all prostitutes are victims, said Ann Jordan, director of the Initiative Against Trafficking in Persons for the human rights organization Global Rights, which is not part of the coalition.

The informal coalition represents groups including Concerned Women for America, the Salvation Army and Equality Now. The groups met here to lobby the House Judiciary Committee, which is considering the bill.

The U.S. has had an impact on how human trafficking is viewed internationally, said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), "but domestically, we're not taking it seriously."

The coalition wants to make several changes in the legislation, including redefining trafficking so it is not limited to moving people across state or national lines. This would mean that pimping would effectively be classified as a type of human trafficking.

They also want to change a non-binding federal "model law" that currently requires proof of force, fraud or coercion in order to prosecute a pimp. Coalition members ...

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