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House Members: HHS Rule Undermines Smith Amendment, a Law Blocking US Taxpayers Funds to Organizations that Support Prostitution, Sex Trafficking

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

The new and controversial final rule by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that becomes effective today, undermines anti-sex trafficking and prostitution protections, and will open the floodgates of U.S. taxpayer money to organizations which cooperate or turn a blind eye to sex trafficking and prostitution.

Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), the author of the landmark US anti-trafficking law and two subsequent anti-trafficking laws and Rep. Joe Pitts (PA-16), who is also a human rights leader in Congress, spoke out against the new administrative rule as it radically alters the implementation of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and guts a provision written by Smith to prohibits overseas HIV funding for any organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.

The Smith amendment has been standing policy since 2003 after it was approved by both the House and Senate and signed into law as part of PL 108-025 by President George W. Bush.

"The Obama Administration is enabling sex trafficking and prostitution all over the world," Smith said at a press conference on the East Lawn of the Capitol Building. "We're going backwards significantly. The brothel owners and operators and sex traffickers want U.S. taxpayer funds. The Administration is practically working hand-in-glove with them."

The new rule fundamentally alters the implementation of the funding limitation of the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003, Public Law 108-25, (the "Leadership Act"), which established PEPFAR. Section 301(f) of the law states, that: "no funds made available to carry out this Act, or any amendment made by this Act, may be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking."

"I want to end the scourge on AIDS and HIV, too," Smith said. "Mr. Pitts and I strongly supported the PEPFAR legislation."

The new rule substantially waters down two critical areas implementing the limitations of U.S. tax payer funding in section 301(f) of the "Leadership Act."

First, it would significantly weaken the separation required between a recipient of U.S. funding under PEPFAR and an affiliate that engages in activities inconsistent with a policy opposing prostitution and sex trafficking, enabling U.S. monies to flow to organizations that are fundamentally indistinguishable from organizations that violate the policy by supporting prostitution and/or sex trafficking. Under the rule, organizations for which funding is prohibited potentially could share facilities, staff, legal status, and even bank accounts with organizations receiving funding.

Second, the rule significantly weakens the assurance that a funding recipient would have to demonstrate that it is compliant with section 301(f). Instead of requiring clear certification and documentation demonstrating compliance as is currently the case today, the policy will be reduced to a mere mention in Department notices and inserted as one sentence in the award documents. The removal of the certification requirement is purportedly intended to save organizations one half-hour or time, at a cost of $13.22

Smith noted that some pro-prostitution organizations lobbied heavily for the deletion of section 301(f) during the reauthorization of the Leadership Act in 2008, but Congress did not weaken the provisions.

"I strongly oppose the rule," Smith said. "The Administration shows it is less concerned with eliminating the human rights violation of sexual exploitation, particularly of women and children, than it is with funding entities that refuse to oppose such exploitation. This Administration has decided not to stand up for victims and human rights, and is not adhering to the law, Congressional intent, the official policy of the U.S. Government, or the fundamental principles of the American people."

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