Federal Appeals Court Rules Government Cannot Force Health Groups To Take Anti-Prostitution Pledge

“A federal appeals court has ruled that the United States cannot force partners in its international fight against AIDS to denounce prostitution as a condition for receiving funding,” the Associated Press reports. Three health organizations sued the government in 2005, saying some groups “advocate for a reduction in penalties for prostitution to prevent interference with outreach efforts,” according to the news agency (7/6).

“In a split 2-1 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that nonprofit groups could not be forced to adopt a policy opposing prostitution in order to receive funding from a 2003 spending bill passed by the U.S. Congress,” Reuters writes. According to the news agency, the guidelines of the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 “state that ‘no funds made available to carry out this Act … may be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution.'” The law was slightly modified when it was renewed in 2008.

“The appeals court upheld a lower court’s injunction barring U.S. agencies from enforcing the requirement on the grounds that it violated [the groups’] free speech,” Reuters reports. In dissenting, Judge Chester Straub called on the Supreme Court to hear the case to decide “possible unconstitutional conditions on government funding,” the news agency writes (Katz, 7/6).

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