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Editorial, Opinion Piece Respond To Supreme Court Case Challenging Anti-Prostitution Pledge

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday heard a case — AOSI v. USAID — challenging a 2003 federal statute that requires non-profit organizations to adopt an “anti-prostitution policy” in order to receive federal funding for HIV/AIDS programs abroad, on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment. The following summarizes an editorial and an opinion piece addressing the case.

  • New York Times: “[T]his provision violates the recipients’ First Amendment right to freedom of expression. It clearly does by requiring them to speak and advocate the government’s position, without the option of staying silent,” the editorial states. “This provision could also hurt outreach programs by undermining trust with sex workers, who may avoid seeking help from organizations with a declared anti-prostitution agenda,” the newspaper continues, adding, “Compelling that speech is unconstitutional,” and “[t]he Supreme Court should affirm the appeals court and rule that the First Amendment prohibits this form of official control” (4/22).
  • Serra Sippel, Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog: “It’s not just a mere inconvenience to be told what you can and cannot believe as an organization fighting HIV,” Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, writes. “Being able to find a solution to this devastating illness means being able to implement best practices in public health, to explore new approaches, to talk to anyone and everyone about risk and prevention. Freedom of speech and freedom of belief feed an effective public health response,” she continues, adding, “Engaging sex workers to stem the spread of HIV requires building trust and ending stigma and discrimination — isn’t it counterintuitive to force organizations to pledge opposition to one of the groups most at risk of HIV infection? Isn’t it irresponsible, if not dangerous, to exclude the contributions of people affected by a pandemic?” (4/22).