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Sex, Greed and Forced Abortions in ‘Paradise’

Ms
. magazine Cover Story puts a human face —
and stories about women — on one of Jack Abramoff’s most exploitative ventures, and one that Tom DeLay helped to thrive

Washington, DC – Were abusive garment sweatshops, forced abortions, and sex trafficking in Saipan protected by Tom DeLay? How did Congressional leaders and the Bush Administration succeed in blocking labor and immigration reforms that would have ended these sweatshops on United States soil? And how did
Jack Abramoff figure into all this?

Those are some of the questions Ms. answered after sending an investigative team to the Northern Mariana Islands. There, 30,000 temporary “guestworkers” — predominantly women — from China, the Phillipines, Bangladesh and Thailand sew clothing for top-name American brands, which are then allowed to label them “Made in USA” because the Marianas are a U.S. territory. But workers in these factories are not protected by basic U.S. fair labor laws.

“Our research team documented what amounts to indentured servitude on the U.S. territory of the Northern Marianas: substandard living and dangerous working conditions, forced abortions, and a declining labor market that has left many women few options than to be trafficked into the sex trade,” said Katherine Spillar, executive editor of Ms. magazine.

While these conditions festered, Jack Abramoff was handsomely paid by the Marianas government and its garment industry to ensure that Congress would not pass laws to upgrade wages and working conditions for immigrant laborers. Abramoff arranged junkets to this island paradise for more than one hundred members of Congress and their staffs to ensure that no reforms would pass. One of Abramoff’s strongest Congressional allies was Tom DeLay, who went so far as to call the Marianas “a perfect Petri dish of ‘capitalism.’”

“A place that fosters forced abortions and sex trafficking? So much for the pious moralism often preached by both these men,” continued Spillar.

Ms. executive editor Katherine Spillar and author Rebecca Clarren are available for press interviews; copies of the magazine are also available. Spillar directed the extensive Ms. investigation into the web of influence resulting in the exploitation of women. Writer and investigative reporter Rebecca Clarren traveled to Saipan for interviews with garment workers at factories, the tin shacks where workers live and the sex clubs where many now work.

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Copyright Ms. Magazine 2009