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Opinion Pieces Address Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down Anti-Prostitution Pledge

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down as unconstitutional the federal government’s requirement that groups accepting U.S. aid declare their opposition to prostitution. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion (.pdf), with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissenting, and Justice Elena Kagan recusing herself. The following editorials and opinion pieces address the ruling.

  • Aziza Ahmed, Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog: “The Court’s ruling in favor of free speech is a victory for sex worker organizations, public health institutions and activists, and feminist allies against those that promoted the pledge, including (unfortunately) other feminist organizations,” Ahmed, assistant professor at Northeastern University School of Law, writes. These groups “cannot effectively implement harm-reduction programs where the laws criminalize the very populations that are being served,” and furthermore, “criminalization of both sex work and their clients drives the sex industry underground and enables harassment of sex workers,” she states. “The struggle to end the spread of HIV will continue. This decision moves us in the right direction by bringing U.S. regulations in line with its purported goals, supporting the many organizations working with sex workers, and continuing the ongoing struggle to shift laws and regulations to better address the needs of the most vulnerable,” she continues (6/24).
  • Celeste Watkins-Hayes, The Atlantic: Watkins-Hayes, chair of the African-American studies department at Northwestern University, discusses her experience as principal investigator of the Health, Hardship, and Renewal Study, and the importance of groups that provide non-judgmental services. “I am not suggesting that we ignore the serious ethical, legal, and social concerns that sex work raises. There absolutely is a place for discussions about eradicating sexual exploitation wherever it rears its head,” she writes, adding, “But to attack the problem by requiring HIV/AIDS organizations to explicitly and actively oppose prostitution as a condition of funding, rather than allowing them to take a neutral stance that allows them to focus first and foremost on risk reduction, is counterproductive in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.” She concludes, “The effectiveness of the programs, and the utility of our public funding, would be compromised. The Supreme Court took an important step in protecting these crucial goals” (6/25).