Update on “Antiprostitution Loyalty Oath”
Since being mandated in 2005, the “antiprostitution loyalty oath” has been repeatedly challenged in court. The rule requires all organizations receiving U.S. funds for international HIV and AIDS work to pledge their opposition to prostitution, with this requirement extending even to organizations’ privately funded activities. In May 2006, two federal district courts found that the regulation violated First Amendment rights. However, in March 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed the ruling, stating that the required oath does not violate these rights. A case against the oath is currently pending in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, which EngenderHealth signed on to as a member of the Global Health Council.
As a result of these legal challenges, the U.S. government recently proposed an amended rule that claims to give grantees that object to the antiprostitution oath the option of creating an affiliate entity that would take the pledge in order to receive funding. However, this option would be impractical to carry out and would unduly burden organizations. Last month, a letter was submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by the Brennan Center for Justice on behalf of several organizations, including EngenderHealth, that oppose the new rule. Two members of Congress, Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), have also submitted comments against the rule, which they state “represents poor policy for public health, inappropriately restricts free speech of grantees, and undermines Congress’s intent that HIV/AIDS funds be spent in an efficient and integrated manner.”
EngenderHealth continues to advocate for renunciation of the antiprostitution oath, which not only infringes on free speech rights, but also undermines HIV prevention efforts by further stigmatizing individuals who need such services.
EngenderHealth will provide updates on decisions made about this important issue. For more information, visit www.brennancenter.org.