Are Prostitution Laws Unconstitutional?

October 18, 2010

Recent events have raised the question of whether U.S. prostitution laws are unconstitutional. Last week’s decision by a Canadian court striking down portions of  that nation’s federal prostitution law is causing similar discussions south of the border. The reaction from some on the right has been immediate and predictable. Former Judge Robert Bork was interviewed by Newsmax and gave his views on the subject:

“It depends on the elite class’s opinion,” he told Newsmax. If the American elite would prefer prostitution to be decriminalized nationally, federal judges will go along “even if the majority of the people are against it, and even though there is nothing in the Constitution about it.”

This argument is not persuasive. Strict constructionists need look no further than the preamble to find the Constitution’s stated purpose to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” These “Blessings of Liberty” logically include autonomy over our own bodies.  To argue that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to engage in prostitution because it doesn’t specifically grant that right ignores the language of the Ninth Amendment:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Not everyone on the right agrees with Judge Bork. John Stossel put it this way in an article defending the D.C. Madam: “If adults want to rent their bodies to other adults, that should be their choice.”

For another perspective, read this article from the Prostitution Research and Education(PRE) web site. This liberal, women’s rights oriented group tries to make the case that prostitution denies women civil rights. The author’s conclusions twist our concept of constitutional rights to the point where they are unrecognizable. For example, permitting women to engage in prostitution denies “her”, among other basic rights,her rights to liberty,privacy, and free speech. Interestingly, male prostitutes do not suffer these same civil right violations.

Although not currently legal in the “land of the free” (Nevada notwithstanding), prostitution is legal in most western countries, including Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, and most of Europe.

Prior to taking the bench, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave her own views on prostitution in a 1977 ACLU paper, including the following quote: ““prostitution as a consensual act between adults is arguably within the zone of privacy protected by recent constitutional decisions.” Those then recent constitutional decisions included Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut, which recognized inherent constitutional privacy rights.

It is not clear that her current brethren on the Supreme Court would agree. Justice Antonin Scalia has written that “there is no basis for thinking that our society has ever shared that Thoreauvian ‘you-may-do-what-you-like-so-long-as-it-does-not-injure-someone-else’ beau ideal—much less for thinking that it was written into the Constitution…. Our society prohibits…certain activities not because they harm others but because they are considered, in the traditional phrase, ‘contra bonos mores,’ i.e., immoral.”

The Supreme Court has no problem permitting the legislation of morality. Read this post for a wealth of historical background.

There is no indication that our nation’s highest court will take up this issue any time soon,but our northern neighbors are giving us something to think about.

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MRS ROBINSON October 19, 2010 at 10:29 am

What makes it unconstitutional is right were she said ”
Our society prohibits�certain activities not because they harm others but because they are considered, in the traditional phrase, �contra bonos mores,� i.e., immoral.�

Orgianlly prostitution laws were created “TO STOP A WOMEN FROMING SHOWING HER WARES IN PUBLIC”.
Now we are enforcing THE WITCH HUNT AGAINST CONSENTING ADULTS IN PRIVATE, we have taught society it is ok TO HATE SEX WORKERS that they get what they deserve and we even have cops stalking them down online, using the swat team to kick in their door only to give them a summons to appear, and many of these women are thrown in jail even though they have not solicted anyone for anything other than their time as a escort. Cops are bragging in the media “we will run these women from our counties”
Criminalizing consenting adults takes away the SAME SANCTION & PROTECTION under the law given to everyone else and puts THE SEX WORKER IN HARMS WAY, we also know this is why it is soo easy for PIMPS TO HIDE OUR TEENS AND EXPLOIT THEM. Since the WITCH HUNT AGAINST CRAIGSLIST the cops no longer able able to get the PIMPS IP address to track them down, so your WITCH HUN HARMS ALL WOMEN & CHILDREN.
Decriminalizing adults in private gives all citizens the option to report abuse, violence and minors being exploited. We have seperated porn from child porn and we now need to seperate Human Trafficking to include street prostitution, from consenting adults wo meet in private.
In PA the chief had sex with 13 women he arrested even after he had solcited them for a illegal activity verbally and did not need anymore evidence and I am sure he told his wife it was all in a days work. We have a women raped by a john in a park and calls the cops and they thrown the john in jail for trying to by sex and her in jail for prostitution and just say she was not raped, they did not offer to take her to the hopsital for a rape kit to be down and investagate if a crime had occured. So now all a rapist has to do is say she was a hooker so its not rape. What if these women become homeless do you think they will be safer living on the streets or maybe they should stay with their abusive husbands because the LAW KNOWS WHICH TYPE OF ABUSE IS BETTER FOR US>
Read up on 19th century prositution and madams they paid for most of the railroads, they put big money into coal and other huge indsutries and they way the recession is going if sex workers were not renting rooms at hotels and spending there money at local businesses, BUSINESS OWNERS WOULD CLOSE UP SHOP.
If we want laws based on MORALS, lets lock up husbands that cheat on their wives, politicans that LIE, cops who ignore a sex workers complaints, and all drunk women in bars giving it away to strangers, and the wives that have negotiated their marriages based on monetary gain.
It is selfish to PUT ALL WOMEN AND CHILDREN AT RISK because of what we think it MORALLY correct. We do not allow hate crimes based on gender, sexuality and even religion but if I make a buck using MY BRAINS & BODY we have issues with it.
Upon reseaching these Human Trafficking adovocates I found they offer no services to women and there only goal is to keep us criminalized. They collect donations FOR VICTIMS and then they spend the money traveling the country lying to the media just like a politican, and when you contact them and ask for services to exit the infustry, they have none. The expection is GEMS and childrenofthenights.
Meeanwhile our prsions are so full we let dangerous predators out early instead of locking them up for life. if Law Enfocement went after dangerous people with the same ZEST they STALK THE SEX WORKER with, maybe everyone would be a bit safer.

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