Thank You Thursdays: The Supreme Court strikes down harmful anti-prostitution pledge


For years, the United States has endorsed an explicitly discriminatory policy against sex workers. PEPFAR, our international HIV/AIDS aid policy, contains an anti-prostitution pledge requirement stating that no funds “may be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” In practice, this means that life-saving materials like condoms, contraceptives, and even information about sex and sexuality can’t legally be distributed to sex workers by any international agencies that accept US funding. Domestic agencies have to make no such pledge, although prostitution is obviously not legal in most of the US.

This, despite the fact that female sex workers are the ones who could most benefit from such resources, as they are 13.5 times more likely to be living with HIV than other women, which is why it’s been clear to many advocates and activists for a long time that this pledge greatly hinders the overall effort to stem the spread of the disease.

Today, that all changed when the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot require HIV outreach organizations to sign an anti-prostitution pledge in order to get government funding. As Amanda Marcotte explains at Salon, the court found 6-2 that this requirement violates the First Amendment.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the main opinion, arguing that opposition to prostitution cannot be compelled as a condition of federal funding because it’s too broad and by its nature “cannot be confined within the scope of the Government program.”

This is a wonderful day for sex workers but also anyone and everyone who has a stake in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide, which was being severely crippled and undermined by this bullshit ideological demand. Big ups to all the sex workers, lawyers, activists, NGOs, policymakers, health workers, and more who stood up for health and human rights and achieved this amazing victory.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to serving as an Executive Director at Feministing, Lori is the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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