BREAKING: Congressional Republicans Run a Prostitution Ring and Other Things You Didn’t Know

Jodi Jacobson

If you don't believe the Republican Party runs a prostitution ring because individual elected officials have procured the services of prostitutes, then you wouldn't smear Planned Parenthood for the actions of one employee out of 11,000.

See all our articles on this issue at this link.

Congressional Republicans run a prostitution ring.  I know this because Senator David Vitter admitted in 2007 to procuring the services of a sex worker, though he later refused to admit it was “illegal.”  I don’t want to keep score, but elected Republicans outrank Democrats in prostitution scandals six to one, so clearly they are pimping people out.

Congressional Republicans also condone adultery and “out-of-wedlock” childbearing.  I know this because the late Congressman Henry Hyde and the late Senator Strom Thurmond both admitted to extramarital affairs and to having children out of wedlock. Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, sponsor of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, “was married three times, and paid for his second wife’s abortion; failed to pay child support to the children of his first two wives and while married to his third and present wife and was photographed licking whipped cream off of strippers at his inaugural party.”  On the more kinky side of sex scandals, John Bolton, former Ambassador to United Nations “is suspected of forcing his former wife to be involved in unsavory group sex acts.” And, whew!, that’s just a sampling of the list.

The Republican Party also condones “payoffs” to mistresses and their families, which I know because Senator John Ensign’s family paid $96,000 to the family of his mistress, which some believe was a payment to “keep things quiet.”  I think this might be a breach of ethics but, hey.

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Moreover, it may surprise many, the Republican Party condones sexual abuse of minors and promotes gay sex, despite their many protestations to the contrary (they like to keep us guessing).  I know this because there have been so many Republican gay sex “scandals” including those involving minors. There’s Mark Foley, Larry Craig, Ted Haggard… oh there are so many I can’t list them all.  You’ll just have to read about them here.

Wait…

What’s that, you say?  One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch, girl? I can’t smear the entire party with the antics of individual members? These individuals don’t represent the party as a whole or Republicans writ large?  Their “failings” are those of individuals, some of whom make mistakes and some of whom, frankly, are just unethical dumbasses?

Oh!  I thought you might say that.

Which is why I am so surprised at the reaction to a clearly highly edited tape produced by a group “out to get” Planned Parenthood which shows one clearly idiotic and unprofessional administrative person trying to jive with a fake pimp and prostitute. 

Lila Rose and her LiveAction Film team (we might call it Lie Action Films) went “undercover to 12 Planned Parenthood clinics in six states” and managed to film… one employee who clearly should not have been hired in the first place and has now been fired.  One employee at one site out of a total of 85 affiliates running 818 health centers in 49 states (plus DC) out of an estimated total of 11,186 employees based on 2009 data. If that is all their “smear tactics” could produce–one employee out of over 11,000–I’d say PPFA is lookin’ pretty good.  I mean, out of 535 members of Congress, my list of Republican scandals doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface and the ratio of scandals to members far outstrips the ratio of bad hires at PPFA many times.

The video is, in a word, disgusting, on many levels.

It is of course disgusting, and unnerving, to watch this woman, who is supposedly there to serve clients, hobknobbing with these creepy people.  But she is gone.  Unlike, you know, Bob Barr, John Ensign, David Vitter…

Phyllis Kinsler, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey stated:

We were profoundly shocked when we viewed the videotape released this morning, which depicted an employee of one of our health centers behaving in a repugnant manner that is inconsistent with our standards of care and is completely unacceptable. We have a zero tolerance policy for this kind of behavior, and the employee in the video was immediately suspended from her duties this morning and was terminated this evening. We are fully committed to delivering high-quality reproductive health care to the women of our communities, complying with all laws, and upholding the highest ethical standards.”

But the video is disgusting also for its intention, which, as stated by Rose, is to “bring down Planned Parenthood.” For its lack of any substance or proof of any pattern or any evidence whatsoever to implicate Planned Parenthood in doing anything other than providing basic reproductive and sexual health care services to 2,961,392 clients according to 2009 estimates.  Instead of worrying about actual child trafficking or actually helping people get services who need them, Live Action Films is engaged in a smear campaign that is gutless and directly targeted at undermining the health and well-being–and abrogating the rights–of low-income and minority women most reliant on publicly funded services. 

Noble cause, Lila.  What’s next?

Planned Parenthod did the right thing immediately.  It notified the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

As soon as the pattern of visits by these supposed “child sex traffickers,” became apparent, Planned Parenthood employees immediately reported to Planned Parenthood management that two highly unusual visits occurred within hours of each other by persons that claimed to be engaged in sex trafficking. On that same day, notes Stuart Schear, Vice President for Communications at PPFA, “prior to learning that these visits had also occurred in other states, the local Planned Parenthood affiliate notified local law enforcement in New Jersey. Human trafficking has been a major issue in New Jersey and affiliate leadership was concerned that these visits were a part of this deeply troubling criminal activity.”

“Moreover, Planned Parenthood’s national office notified federal authorities upon learning of these and additional visits to Planned Parenthood health centers in five other states in which persons claiming to be involved in sex trafficking with minors asked for services for young women. The FBI has been collecting evidence from Planned Parenthood employees and health centers, and, as of late yesterday, was reviewing photos of at least one of the persons making these claims. The photo image was caught on security videotape by Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood brought this potential criminal activity to the attention of the highest legal authority in the United States.

In short, PPFA reported suspected child traffickers and abided by both the law and its principals of protecting people. 

So let’s return to reality here folks. Planned Parenthood isn’t breaking any laws; quite the contrary.  Unless of course there is that Republican Prostitution Ring.

Analysis Law and Policy

Supreme Court Strikes Anti-Prostitution Pledge for American Organizations Fighting HIV/AIDS

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Supreme Court ruled that requiring U.S. organizations fighting HIV/AIDS abroad to take an anti-prostitution pledge violates the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the anti-prostitution loyalty oath (APLO) violates the First Amendment when it is applied to U.S. organizations. The APLO, an amendment to the 2003 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), required non-governmental organizations working to improve global health to adopt an explicit policy opposing prostitution as a condition of receiving U.S. funding. The decision does not address application of the pledge to foreign non-government organizations receiving U.S. funding.

The case represents an important, if partial, victory in the decades-long campaign by right-wing politicians to shame and stigmatize sex workers and cut off aid to some of the most effective organizations in the field.

PEPFAR was established to prevent the spread of HIV and treat AIDS-related illnesses, but from the start became mired in conservative politics and policies. One of these was the “anti-prostitution pledge,” originally sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a staunch opponent of women’s rights. The APLO required organizations to adopt a policy stating they did not “promote” or “advocate” “the legalization or practice of prostitution,” and required them to explicitly oppose prostitution and sex trafficking. The pledge is similar in some sense to the global gag rule in that the pledge requirement limits what recipients can do with all funding, not just PEPFAR funding. But unlike the global gag rule, PEPFAR recipients are not simply “gagged” from discussing prostitution; they are compelled to take a specific stance against prostitution, and it’s a specific stance dictated by the U.S. government.

In 2005 the Alliance for Open Society International (AOSI) sued, arguing the pledge violated the organization’s First Amendment rights to be free from government-compelled speech. AOSI won a temporary injunction blocking the pledge. Numerous appeals and attempts to settle the case happened, until 2011 when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the injunction, striking the pledge and holding that it “falls well beyond what the Supreme Court and this Court have upheld as permissible conditions on the receipt of government funds” because it “does not merely require recipients of [PEPFAR] funds to refrain from certain conduct, but goes substantially further and compels recipients to espouse the government’s viewpoint.”

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This was the issue the Roberts Court took up. Writing for the 6-2 majority (Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the decision) the Chief Justice held that the pledge falls outside the dictates of the PEPFAR program and thus violates the First Amendment rights of the U.S. organizations that received its funds, placing the decision in a long and often convoluted line of case law that seeks to reconcile government funding that comes with strings attached.

The Spending Clause of the Constitution generally grants Congress broad discretion to fund private programs or activities for the “general welfare.” This includes the authority to impose limits on the use of such funds to ensure they are used in the manner Congress intends. Generally speaking, if a party objects to the limits Congress has set on receiving those funds, the answer is to not take the money. But sometimes Congress crosses a line, and a funding condition can become an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights. The distinction that has emerged from this Court’s cases on this issue is, like many Supreme Court distinctions, fuzzy. But the Court tries to strike a difference between conditions that define the limits of the government-spending program—that is, those that specify the activities Congress wants to subsidize, and those conditions that seek to leverage funding to regulate speech outside the contours of the federal program itself. The prostitution pledge, the Court held, was the latter.

To get to this conclusion, Chief Justice John Roberts and the majority relied on an important reproductive health care decision, Rust v. Sullivan. In Rust, the Court considered Title X of the Public Health Service Act, which authorized grants to health-care organizations offering family planning services, but prohibited federal funds from being “used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” The organizations received funds from a variety of sources other than the federal government for a variety of purposes, but the act specifically prohibited the use of Title X funds this way. To enforce the anti-abortion provision, Health and Human Services regulations barred Title X projects from advocating abortion and required grantees to keep their Title X projects “physically and financially” separate from their other projects that engaged in the prohibited activities.

A group of Title X funding recipients brought suit, claiming the regulations imposed an unconstitutional condition on their First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court rejected their claims, holding that Congress can constitutionally fund certain programs selectively to address an issue of public concern without funding alternative ways of addressing the same problem. In Title X, Congress had defined the federal program to encourage only particular family planning methods. According to the Court, the challenged regulations were simply “designed to ensure that the limits of the federal program are observed” and “that public funds [are] spent for the purposes for which they were authorized.” These regulations were valid, the Court explained in Rust, because they governed only the scope of the grantee’s Title X projects, leaving the grantee free to engage in abortion advocacy through programs that were independent from its Title X projects. Because the regulations did not prohibit speech “outside the scope of the federally funded program,” they did not run afoul of the First Amendment, the Court reasoned.

In the case of the PEPFAR pledge, the Roberts Court determined that by:

…demanding that funding recipients adopt and espouse, as their own, the Government’s view on an issue of public concern, the Policy Requirement by its very nature affects protected conduct outside the scope of the federally funded program. A recipient cannot avow the belief dictated by the condition when spending Leadership Act funds, and assert a contrary belief when participating in activities on its own time and dime.

The government had argued that the affiliate guidelines, established while this litigation was ongoing, resolved the First Amendment problems. Under those guidelines, funding recipients are permitted to work with affiliated organizations that do not abide by the condition, as long as the recipients retain “objective integrity and independence” from the unfettered affiliates. The government suggests the guidelines alleviate any unconstitutional burden on the respondents’ First Amendment rights by allowing them to either: (1) accept Leadership Act funding and comply with the policy requirement, but establish affiliates to communicate contrary views on prostitution, or (2) decline funding themselves (thus remaining free to express their own views or remain neutral), while creating affiliates whose sole purpose is to receive and administer Leadership Act funds, thereby “cabin[ing] the effects” of the policy requirement within the scope of the federal program.

But the Court wasn’t buying it, and the discussion on the role of affiliates is interesting given the battle domestically over funding for Planned Parenthood. The Court wrote:

When we have noted the importance of affiliates in this context, it has been because they allow an organization bound by a funding condition to exercise its First Amendment rights outside the scope of the federal program. Affiliates cannot serve that purpose when the condition is that a funding recipient espouse a specific belief as its own. If the affiliate is distinct from the recipient, the arrangement does not afford a means for the recipient to express its beliefs. If the affiliate is more clearly identified with the recipient, the recipient can express those beliefs only at the price of evident hypocrisy.

The government also argued that the pledge is necessary because, without it, the grant of federal funds could free a recipient’s private funds “to be used to promote prostitution or sex trafficking.” This is a classic co-mingling argument that conservatives have brought out to argue in favor of defunding health-care organizations that provide comprehensive reproductive care. The fact that the Roberts Court rejected it is a good, but cautious, sign in that battle. “That argument assumes that federal funding will simply supplant private funding, rather than pay for new programs or expand existing ones. The Government offers no support for that assumption as a general matter, or any reason to believe it is true here. And if the Government’s argument were correct, League of Women Voters would have come out differently, and much of the reasoning of Regan and Rust would have been beside the point,” the Court wrote.

Interestingly, the only case the government relied on in arguing that the funding requirement was constitutional deals with providing material support for terrorism, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, arguing the pledge was necessary to guarantee federal funds would not be used in a way that would undermine federal policy—a fact the majority noted in closing the opinion.

[T]he Policy Requirement goes beyond preventing recipients from using private funds in a way that would undermine the federal program. It requires them to pledge allegiance to the Government’s policy of eradicating prostitution. As to that, we cannot improve upon what Justice Jackson wrote for the Court 70 years ago: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

As a result of the decision, U.S. organizations receiving U.S. funds for HIV and other efforts will no longer be required to adopt the oath, and those that have already adopted it will not be required to comply. However, it will still be applicable to organizations based outside the United States receiving U.S. funds, which inherently limits the scope of the ruling. While the decision does not have any immediate impact on compelled speech and funding prohibitions in the case of reproductive health care and the campaign to defund Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, the opinion does offer some glimpses into a Roberts Court that is reluctant to adopt the conservative talking point on commingling of funds and government-compelled speech, at least broadly. And with at least two cases exploring the First Amendment constitutional limitations of funding, or not funding, family planning programs making their way through the federal courts of appeals, that’s the kind of signal reproductive health advocates like to see.

Commentary Abortion

Millennials Don’t Know Roe, and That’s Okay

Amanda Marcotte

It's no big surprised that a majority of the under-30 set doesn't know the name Roe v Wade. After all, they grew up in an era where the debate about reproductive rights was about more than legal abortion, but also contraception and sex education. 

Last week, just in time for the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade, a poll from the Pew Forum was released that showed that 56 percent of Americans under 30 don’t know what Roe v Wade is. The majority of them were pro-choice, of course, but they couldn’t connect the name of the decision that secured the right to abortion with their political support for this right. These kinds of polls are touted in the media with the hope of provoking a stereotypical response. Feminists of my generation, generation X, and older are supposed to wring our hands and decry these awful Millennials for their supposed indifference to the rights that were hard-won by their elders.

Well, I for one refuse to play that role. To my mind, it makes perfect sense that Millennials wouldn’t know the name of Roe as well as their elders. When baby boomers and gen Xers were young, “reproductive rights” was largely about the battle over whether or not this country would maintain a legal right to access abortion. But for  millennials, the debate is much more expansive, complex, and bewildering than that. During their formative years, it was as much about contraception, education, and actual access to abortion as it was the right to abortion. No wonder Roe doesn’t loom as large in their world. 

With that in  mind, I’ve put together a quick overview of the battles that formed the millennial view of what “reproductive rights” even means, and why for this generation more than any other, it’s not just about legal abortion.

Contraception. As someone from the tail end of generation X, I can safely attest that contraception didn’t seem as big a hassle for us as it often is for millennials. When I was a teenager and a young woman, contraception was relatively cheap. If you had insurance coverage for it, your co-pay for the birth control pill was often no more than $10 or $15. If you didn’t have insurance, you just trotted yourself down to Planned Parenthood to get all the free condoms you could carry and birth control pills on a sliding income scale that usually left you paying the same $15.

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For millennials, it hasn’t been that simple. The first decade of the 2000s saw as dramatic rise in the price of contraception at campus and community health centers. For many women on insurance, co-pays rose. Pills that used to only set you back $12 a month started costing $50 or more. When the government took steps to rectify this problem by requiring that contraception be offered with no co-pay to insured women, the right wing flipped out, calling one birth control advocate a “slut” and claiming that contraception coverage was some kind of great assault on religious people.

Meanwhile, the family planning clinics that gen Xers took for granted are under sustained assault. Republicans, who used to have no quarrel with subsidized contraception, have repeatedly tried to shut down the federal government to end contraception subsidies. Red states are trying to shut down family planning clinics by ending Medicaid payments to them; Texas has successfully separated thousands of women from access to their local family planning clinic. Clinics have been shutting their doors in response to funding cuts.

Contraception, which was cheap and non-controversial when my generation was young, has been fraught and expensive for millennials. Now many will get contraception without a co-pay, but the lesson that contraception is controversial has definitely sunk in.

Sex education. Sure, it’s not like sex education was great for generation X, but we did grow up in an era when the fear of HIV turned condoms from a taboo subject to something many of us were practicing putting on bananas in school. Virginity wasn’t really fetishized in the eighties and early nineties; there wasn’t much in the way of public discourse around the fundamentalist idea of “waiting for marriage”. There were no purity rings or purity balls, and our pop stars like Madonna and Prince sang about sex in vivid detail.

Millennials, on the other hand, grew up in an era when pop stars like Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears bragged about their virginity, when purity rings became a “thing,” and no one was wearing a condom over her eye like Left Eye Lopez from TLC. More to the point, many of them were subjected to mandatory “abstinence-only” education instituted on a federal level by President Bush. The phrase “abstinence-only” didn’t exist when my generation was teenagers. This generation has had to defend the choice—which almost all of them make, just like generations before—to have sex in non-marital relationships in a way that would have seemed completely ridiculous to older generations.

Abortion access. While abortion access was declining in the eighties and nineties, the real crackdown made possible by Planned Parenthood v Casey really happened during the formative years of the millennial generation. For older generations, you had to walk through a bunch of protesters trying to shame you to get an abortion. For this generation, they not only get the protesters but also have to endure shaming inside the clinic, courtesy state-mandated scripts, waiting periods, and mandatory ultrasounds.

And that’s if you can find a provider. While the number of abortion providers has been declining since 1982, things started to become really dire for the generation coming of age in the past decade. Eighty-seven percent of counties now have no abortion provider, and there are only 1,793 providers, down from an early eighties high of 2,900 providers.  Millennials grew up in an era where the very idea of being able to get an appointment and get an abortion without a fuss seems like a privilege of living in super-liberal areas, instead of a basic right.

This is the world of sexual health and reproductive rights that millennials grew up in. In many ways, things are looking up. The contraception mandate will make contraception much more affordable. After decades of decline, there’s been a small uptick in doctors choosing to provide abortion. Abstinence-only has been discredited, and real sex education is creeping back into schools. The sexed-up virgin pop star thing seems to have gone away. But millennials grew up in an era where “reproductive rights” was about a lot more than the legal right to an abortion. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that they aren’t quite as focused on Roe as earlier generations have been.