Federal Requirement That AIDS Groups Sign Statement Against Sex Work Also Might Silence Them on Abortion, Editorial Says
The Bush administration's requirement that foreign and U.S. organizations providing HIV/AIDS-related services in other countries sign a pledge opposing commercial sex work and sex trafficking in order to be considered for federal funding "may have a hidden purpose: to take away the right of American groups working on family planning overseas to counsel abortions," a New York Times editorial says (New York Times, 7/2). The Bush administration bars U.S. money from going to international groups that support abortion through direct services, counseling or lobbying activities under policies such as the so-called "Mexico City" policy (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/3/04). The "abortion gag rule" does not apply to U.S. groups "for the same First Amendment reasons that the prostitution pledge did not," the Times says. However, the Department of Justice last month overturned its initial decision on the "prostitution pledge" and allowed the requirement -- which has affected foreign groups since 2003 -- to apply to U.S. organizations, a decision that "would seem vulnerable to a constitutional challenge," the Times says. The editorial concludes that "the decision to strip Americans of their First Amendment right to speak as they please on prostitution opens the way to an attempt to keep them silent on abortion, too" (New York Times, 7/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.