STACLU may still be down for the count, but at least one of their logic-impaired scribes is still shoveling out the nonsense. John Bambenek has a column at the mensnewsdaily claiming that the ACLU is “fighting for the trafficking of women”, and it’s predictably absurd and filled with irrational arguments.
The ACLU is arguing before a federal appeals court that the United States is funding AIDS prevention unconstitutionally. Specifically, they argue that having a ban on funds to organizations that promote commercial sex work inhibits free speech. It should be no surprise that the ACLU is in bed with those who want to legalize prostitution.
This is a rather blatant misrepresentation of the facts of the case. The legal issue here is compelled speech; the law being challenged requires that an organization make a specific declaration that they oppose the legalization of prostitution. The legal premise is known as the unconstitutional conditions doctrine, the notion that the government cannot condition the receipt of a benefit by requiring something unconstitutional. For example, they can’t give food stamps only to those who vote for George Bush, or only to those who sign a pledge supporting the Iraq War.
It’s a controversial doctrine, sometimes invoked by the courts and sometimes not. Some situations, like the ones I mentioned above, are obvious; no one would see such policies as constitutional. But in other cases, there are much closer calls and it’s difficult to draw a clear dividing line between them. For instance, can a city refuse to give a benefit generally available to non-profit groups to a group that engages in discrimination? That’s the subject of a major case involving Berkeley and the Sea Scouts, which upheld the city’s authority to do so.
Can a public university refuse to recognize or fund religious student groups, either because they are religious or because they discriminate against other religions and/or against gays? I say no, but the courts are completely confused on the subject. Rosenberger says they can’t refuse to do so on the basis of religion. CLS v Southern Illinois says they can’t do so because such groups discriminate. CLS v Hastings says they can. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the latter issue.
The point is that this is a very muddled area of law and both sides tend to be inconsistent about it. The right, for instance, loves the following argument, taken from Bambenek’s essay:
It is true that advocating the legalization of prostitution is free speech. That doesn’t mean that such speech needs to be funded by the government. As much as some like to think otherwise, Uncle Sam isn’t an ATM machine for every special interest. The old saying goes, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” If one doesn’t like the government’s rules, don’t take the government’s money.
They love that argument…until they don’t. They love it in cases like this, or those dealing with NEA funding. When it comes to cases like the Berkeley Sea Scouts case, this argument is completely forgotten. Same with cases that involve funding for faith-based groups. The left, on the other hand, is generally all for preventing the government from funding religious groups but is outraged with conditions like this one on family planning groups.
If there is a coherent and consistent doctrine in there somewhere that doesn’t depend on whether one supports the idea being expressed, I have yet to find it. At the moment we seem to be stuck in Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” territory.
It should also be noted, of course, that being in favor of legalizing prostitution (which I am) is not the same as being in favor of the “trafficking of women”, nor does support for these groups’ right to not have to be explicitly against legalization in order to receive funding is not the same thing as being in favor of legalizing prostitution at all, any more than being in favor of the KKK’s right to march means being in favor of what they say. But people like Bambenek tend to miss these not-so-subtle distinctions.
More importantly though is that the advocacy for legalized prostitution and AIDS prevention are mutually exclusive. One cannot support the reduction of AIDS infections and support legal prostitution at the same time. Prostitution remains one of the leading vectors for AIDS infection. This is true in the case of both legal and illegal prostitution.
This is utter nonsense. The difference between legal and illegal prostitution is that legal prostitution can be regulated. Weekly STD and AIDS testing can be required for the very purpose of reducing infections. A regulated sex industry is far, far safer than an unregulated one. Does he really think a pimp is gonna care about johns getting infected, or that a girl on her own trying to scrape by can afford such testing? Regulation is the only answer, and it has proven to work very effectively in those countries where prostitution is legal and regulated. The infection rate is a fraction of what it is when prostitution is illegal.
While on its face condoms seem like they could prevent the spread of AIDS, the trust is that they don’t. HIV infection rates increase in countries that have condom distribution programs. Abstinence programs, on the other hand, has been shown in Uganda to reduce AIDS infections. The simple truth is that when one only has sex with one’s spouse, the risk of AIDS exposure approaches zero.
What this has to do with legalization of prostitution is beyond me. Has he discovered an “abstinence program” that will do away with illegal prostitution? Of course not. You can preach abstinence all you want, but some men are still going to go to prostitutes and some women are still going to become prostitutes. And making prostitution illegal also clearly doesn’t stop either of those things. What it does stop, of course, is all ability to regulate it and protect prostitutes and johns from infection.
There are a multitude of studies to show the high level of abuse that prostitutes suffer (see a few here). Women are literally bought and sold as property.
All of which takes place precisely because prostitution is illegal. Where prostitution exists as a black market in seedy neighborhoods run by pimps, of course prostitutes are abused. Who are they going to turn to for help, the police who will arrest them for prostitution? Of course not. Where prostitution is legal and regulated, as in the Netherlands or in some counties of Nevada, this problem is dramatically reduced. The women can form unions to protect their interests, the pimps who do the abusing are cut out of the system and johns who might think about abusing a prostitute can be easily prosecuted.
The argument for legalization goes something like this. Prostitution will happen anyway but legalization and regulation will help stem the abuses. The argument has 50,000 foot appeal. Using the same logic, slavery (which still exists in many places) should be legalized so underground slaves can be given some measure of human rights. The fact that the ACLU and the bevy of left-wing international groups don’t argue for the legalization of slavery shows the logical inconsistency of their position.
Wow. That kind of stupidity doesn’t come naturally; you’ve gotta work to develop irrationality at this level. It takes time, effort and dedication to become that clueless. I may have to offer to host STACLU myself; I miss having so much of this nonsense to laugh at every day.