Statement from HEAL Trafficking: A Health Care Perspective on the Impact on Survivors of Human Trafficking of the United States Supreme Court’s Ruling on Affirmative Action in College Admissions

July 7, 2023

HEAL Trafficking, the largest global network of multidisciplinary health professionals dedicated to ending human trafficking and supporting its survivors, strongly opposes the recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court on affirmative action in college admissions. 

The intersection of human trafficking and health care demands an approach that recognizes the importance of addressing social determinants of health and removing barriers to care. 

As an organization committed to promoting equitable access to health care and addressing the unique needs of survivors of human trafficking, we firmly believe that the affirmative action decision strikes a severe blow to ensuring health equity for all communities, especially  communities of color, and including survivors of human trafficking.

Affirmative action was a necessary precedent to address the historical evils of chattel slavery and racial discrimination, offering a pathway to combat racial inequality, particularly within professional and educational institutions. Since its implementation, affirmative action has helped address disparities by promoting diversity and inclusivity in educational institutions and holding our educational systems accountable to recruiting a diverse health care student body and future workforce, capable of understanding and responding to the unique challenges faced by survivors of trafficking. In our society, affirmative action and inclusivity have proven to be essential tools for fostering diversity, enhancing cultural sensitivity, and providing human trafficking survivors of color a greater chance of accessing equitable education and health care. 

In addition, survivors of trafficking, and specifically survivors of color, benefit greatly from affirmative action when diverse enrollment in higher education leads to a subsequent employment of people of color in the health care field. Research has shown that if patients see themselves within the healthcare workforce, they are more likely to trust their health care provider. They are also better able to communicate their condition, more likely to understand and follow their prescribed treatment, and will be more satisfied with their health care. The Supreme Court’s ruling therefore poses a threat to the progress made in enhancing the capacity of health care providers to effectively serve a diversity of survivors of trafficking, who often face multiple barriers to accessing health care, including systemic racism, lack of affirming care, biases, and discrimination. 

In summary, the decision by the Supreme Court to dismantle affirmative action in higher education exacerbates existing health disparities, perpetuates systemic inequities, and limits opportunities for survivors of color to reclaim their health and well-being. Despite the Supreme Court’s rulings, HEAL Trafficking will continue seeking to ensure that the health and well-being of survivors of trafficking and other marginalized communities remain at the forefront of the health care agenda.

We call on lawmakers, policymakers, and all stakeholders to recognize the critical role that affirmative action and inclusive practices play in promoting health equity and to take action to protect and uphold these policies and practices. Only by dismantling systemic barriers and embracing diversity and inclusion can we truly address the complex health needs of survivors of trafficking and build an equitable health care system for all.


Amanda M. Stylianou, PhD, LCSW


HEAL Trafficking

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