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U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments to Decide Fate of Anti-Prostitution Pledge

April 22, 2013

"On Monday, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case that will decide if recipients of government aid can be forced to oppose prostitution -- or potentially any other issue as a contingency of receiving U.S. funds," The Nation reports. "The case, Alliance for Open Society International v United States Agency for International Development, arises from a controversial policy governing AIDS education, prevention, and treatment, a decade-long fight that's crossed political lines," the news service writes (Grant, 4/19). "At stake is a little-known provision in [the 2003 law that enacted PEPFAR], intended mainly to combat HIV/AIDS, requiring most outside organizations that receive federal funds to have policies 'explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking,'" USA Today notes. The newspaper provides a history of the law, examines arguments for and against it, and briefly discusses the global effort against sex trafficking (Wolf, 4/21).

"The anti-prostitution pledge has already been rejected by lower courts, and so comes to the Supreme Court on the government's appeal, with USAID defending their enforcement of the pledge," The Nation writes, adding, "The pledge, in a way, extends the exclusion and criminalization faced by sex workers in the United States to the organizations who venture to include them in their U.S.-funded programs -- this, despite the fact that USAID regards sex workers as one of their 'most-affected risk populations.'" The news service continues, "It's Smith's position that the government must defend this Monday: that advocating against prostitution is 'central' to PEPFAR." However, "[t]his is not a belief shared by all those in Congress who authored PEPFAR," according to the news service, which notes a bipartisan group of current and former members of Congress "state in their brief [.pdf] to the Supreme Court that Congress's AIDS strategy is in reality undercut by the anti-prostitution pledge" (4/21).

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