President Obama has signed into law a measure championed by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar that will crack down on human traffickers and assist the victims of sex trafficking.
The bill had been at the center of a bitter partisan battle on Capitol Hill for weeks that had held up the confirmation of Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
A provision in the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was authored by Klobuchar. She said in a news release it was modeled after Minnesota's "Safe Harbor" law, which ensures that minors who are sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as criminals, but are treated as victims instead and given assistance through child protection services.
She noted that on average, girls first become victims of sex trafficking at 13 years old, and that such activity is increasing as a result of social media, according to the Star Tribune. She called sex-trafficking rings "horrific," based in part on her experience in the Hennepin County Attorney's office.
The law allows federal authorities to seize the assets of convicted sex traffickers and then use that money to set up a fund to help their victims. Other federal funds that are already set aside for health care will also be used.
The delay in acting on the bill in the Senate developed when Klobuchar belatedly realized language in the bill would prohibit using the fund to cover the cost of an abortion for a sex trafficking victim.
Democrats objected to that provision. Republican leaders said they wouldn't schedule a confirmation vote for Lynch until after a vote on the sex trafficking bill.
Klobuchar helped break the stalemate last month. She suggested dividing the fund into two parts – one for medical assistance, the other for non-medical expenses.
The compromise was accepted and the bill easily passed both houses of Congress earlier this month. President Obama signed the measure into law on Friday.
Lynch was sworn in on April 27, according to The Hill.