Classic Mildred Jefferson. Image is from the blog’s archives by way of the National Right to Life Committee.
Recommended reading: make your way over to Darlene Pawlik’s blog, The Darling Princess, for a critical look at an anti-human-trafficking task force in New Hampshire. Darlene is on target with her concerns about the “New Hampshire Human Trafficking Collaborative Task Force Advisory Committee” and its recent hire, a woman not unsympathetic to decriminalizing sexual exploitation.
It was frustrating news to see that an outspoken advocate of decriminalizing prostitution entirely, including buyers and pimps, would be taking the lead for the NH anti-trafficking task force. Her smooth talk of decriminalizing the sex trade to ensure safety for sex workers shields the most contemptible practice of human slavery. Her motives may be well-meaning, but she is terribly misinformed.
…Decriminalizing pimping and the sex trade would tie the hands of investigators. The buyers and the sellers would be able to continue their devastating business, while victims would have no clear way out. Sex trafficking is not an event, but a process and the results of that process. Sex trafficking cannot exist without the existence of prostitution.
Read the whole thing. I hope some legislators come across Darlene’s post, too.
Sometimes, my day job brings to my attention some bills in Concord that I would have otherwise missed. This one is straight out of are-you-kidding-me territory: HB 287, “establishing a committee to study the decriminalization of sex work.” That’s prostitution, in the PC lexicon.
Don’t laugh. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee voted overwhelmingly to recommend Ought to Pass, until in a fit of either common sense or leadership arm-twisting (I honestly don’t know which), they took it back. You can’t even see evidence of that vote on the docket anymore. Instead, you see that the executive (voting) session was “recessed” until February 14.
That’s do-over time. I hope they get it right. The bill’s text, listing the agencies to be consulted for the “study,” makes clear that the question is not whether to decriminalize prostitution, but when and how. Otherwise, the committee would have been charged with hearing from survivors of commercial sex trafficking, and with people who work with those survivors.
When I saw the bill, I began asking questions, and I was very shortly in touch with women from around the country who have been active in efforts to resist treating – exploiting – people as sexual commodities. Without exception, all were concerned about some existing laws relating to prostitution – treating trafficked minors as criminals, for example.
Making commercial sex legal isn’t the answer.
I am still absorbing all that I have heard and read from the women fighting for human dignity in this policy arena. Some of them are trafficking survivors. They take legislation like HB 287 personally.
Thanks to them, I’m now in touch with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which is among other things a clearinghouse for public policy information. Maybe the next bill will task a “study” committee with hearing from the Center. The current bill doesn’t. Likewise, World Without Exploitation is a resource not cited in HB 287.
Darlene Pawlik has a message for the committee, and she has shared it in her blog The Darling Princess. She is an amazing Granite State woman and a powerful advocate for fellow survivors of sexual abuse.
Real people, human beings with dignity and value are worthy the protection of the law. People should not be sold. People should not be purchased.
You are seated on the committee charged with public safety. This isn’t about installing a crosswalk.
By the way, did you know that Amnesty International has come out in favor of full decriminalization of prostitution? Their concern for human rights and dignity, which has been exemplary in many cases, falls to pieces when the subject is abortion or commercialized sex.
Buying and selling people is bad public policy. If a study committee is going to start with assumptions, start with that one.
Update: On February 14, 2017, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 12-8 to “retain” HB 287. That means that the bill has not been killed but it will not be advanced to the full House this year.
The team at the Susan B. Anthony List reminded me today of a canny little video they made a few years back, when the outgoing president and his appointees imposed the HHS mandate. The video hits a nerve anew, in this week of the rescission of an invitation to pro-lifers by organizers of a so-called “Women’s March.” This week, it’s not a president speaking – but the Bureau of Womanhood Conformity sounds like it’s still in business.
What follows is adapted from a 2015 Leaven for the Loaf post. I’m tempted to say this is not a drill. Peaceful pro-life witness is not Activism Lite, and I have an uneasy feeling that 2017 is going to underscore that with an angry red slash.
I hope I’m wrong about the angry red thing. I know I’m right about the Activism Lite part.
Recall what peaceful witness called for in 1963, in the face of angry and sometimes violent resistance that had deep political and social roots. Recall Dr. King’s words from those days: I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down.
In 1963, a few months before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, he and many other civil rights activists converged on Birmingham, Alabama to challenge racial segregation. Their campaign was marked by intensive planning and discipline, because the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was intent not only on its message but on delivering it the right way. Volunteers for the Birmingham campaign were screened and trained, as King recounted in Why We Can’t Wait. He noted, “Every volunteer was required to sign a Commitment Card.”
To what did the Birmingham activists commit?
I hereby pledge myself – my person and body – to the nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following ten commandments:
- Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
- Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
- Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
- Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
- Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
- Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
- Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
- Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
- Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
- Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain of the demonstration.
King added, “We made it clear that we would not send anyone out to demonstrate who had not convinced himself and us that he could accept and endure violence without retaliating” during the campaign. That took guts. It meant putting aside the natural right of self-defense during the demonstration, even as they faced people who had no qualms about using violence, including bombs.
I want to take the Birmingham commitment to heart.
Anyone can sign a piece of paper (or in this age, click on “I agree”) signifying a commitment. So why bother? Because nonviolence during a public demonstration isn’t something to take for granted. Public affirmation reinforces personal commitment. Public affirmation is part of accountability to the larger community. It draws a clear line between those peaceful demonstrators and any people willing to resort to violence to impede them.
I have neighbors who take umbrage at the assertion that today’s pro-life movement is part of the civil rights movement that came to flower at that March on Washington in ’63. In reply, I can only avow that life is the fundamental civil and human right. Abortion takes lives, and there are businesses that profit from it. Let peaceful public witness to that continue.
I haven’t endured the physical abuse to which the Birmingham demonstrators were subjected. Their example is awesome even today. They faced police dogs and fire hoses, and still made a commitment to nonviolent public witness and action. The best way for me to honor their memory is to emulate them, even though I’ve faced nothing worse so far than name-calling.
Recall that the nonviolent demonstrators in Birmingham were far from passive. There was urgency in their goal of justice and reconciliation. From a 1963 UPI report on the Birmingham demonstrations: “King reacted strongly, however, to a statement by Attorney General Robert Kennedy suggesting that the all-out integration drive here was ill-timed. ‘I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down,’ King told a reporter. ‘I begin to feel that the moderates in America are our worst enemy.’”
The events and words of 1963 aren’t frozen in place, devoid of application to our own times. View them not as an archaeologist views a dig, but as a traveler views a map: take this path, not that one. I could do worse than follow the people who signed those cards in Birmingham.
Photos by Ellen Kolb except as noted in captions.
For more coverage of the 2017 New Hampshire March for Life, see the 40 Days for Life – Manchester Facebook album.