Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Supreme Court strikes down anti-prostitution pledge
First Published Jun 20 2013 08:49 am • Last Updated Jun 20 2013 10:51 am

WASHINGTON • The Supreme Court on Thursday said the government cannot force private health organizations to denounce prostitution as a condition to get taxpayer money to fight AIDS around the world.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said the anti-prostitution pledge in a 2003 AIDS funding law improperly restricts the groups’ First Amendment rights.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Four organizations that work in Africa, Asia and South America challenged the provision in the law, arguing their work has nothing to do with prostitution.

The Obama administration countered that it is reasonable for the government to give money only to groups that oppose prostitution and sex trafficking because they contribute to the spread of HIV and AIDS. It said that if groups were not held to a pledge to oppose prostitution and sex trafficking, they could spend private funds in a way that might undermine the government’s mission.

But in the 6-2 decision, Roberts wrote that the pledge "goes beyond preventing recipients from using private funds in a way that would undermine the federal government."

"It requires them to pledge allegiance to the government’s policy of eradicating prostitution," he wrote. That, Roberts wrote, the government cannot do.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. Scalia said the pledge "is nothing more than a means of selecting suitable agents to implement the government’s chosen strategy to eradicate HIV/AIDS."

"That is perfectly permissible under the Constitution," Scalia wrote.

Roberts noted that Congress has made available billions of dollars for private groups to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS through the law, formally known as the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003.

Another condition of funding that was not at issue in this case prohibits those groups from doing anything to promote the legalization of prostitution or sex trafficking.


story continues below
story continues below

A federal appeals court in New York struck down the pledge as an unacceptable intrusion on the groups’ right to speak freely. Another appeals court, in Washington, upheld the provision against a similar challenge.

Two groups — Alliance for Open Society International Inc., which runs a program in Central Asia to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS by reducing drug use, and Pathfinder International, which provides family planning and reproductive health services in more than 20 countries — went to the courts after they adopted policy statements opposing prostitution in order to keep their eligibility for funding intact.

The other two groups are Global Health Council and Interaction.

The organizations "fear that adopting a policy explicitly opposing prostitution may alienate certain host governments, and may diminish the effectiveness of some of their programs by making it more difficult to work with prostitutes in the fight against HIV/AIDS," Roberts said.

The groups pointed out in court papers that the World Health Organization and other international organizations receive U.S funds to fight AIDS and do not have to comply with the anti-prostitution pledge. Indeed, some of the international agencies support lesser penalties for prostitution as part of their AIDS-fighting strategy.

Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the case, presumably because she worked on it while serving in the Justice Department as the Obama administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.

The case is United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, 12-10.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.