Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on June 17 that he wouldn’t sign a bill to legalize prostitution, effectively ending efforts by lawmakers to pass the bill during this legislative session, which ends on June 19.
State legislators introduced the bill last week, after a longtime effort from New York Democrats who are part of a growing nationwide campaign to enact laws to protect workers in the sex industry. The bill would eliminate punishments for people who buy, sell and promote sex. Prostitution is a misdemeanor in the state.
“I have not read the bill and I don’t believe in this stage of the session you can pick up that bill, educate yourself on the issue and have a reasonable conversation,” Cuomo told WAMC radio about the measure, which was introduced by state Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and state Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens), according to the New York Post.
“That will go down on one of those controversial items lists – guns, reproductive health, etc. I don’t think people are going to do that on 48 hours’ notice,” Cuomo said.
Sister Joan S. Dawber, S.C., executive director and founder of Lifeway Network, an anti-human trafficking organization, said that the bill would legalize the “sex industry overall; not only prostitutes, but also pimps, brothel owners, a whole billion-dollar industry.” She added that it’s important to change the way “sex work” is spoken about, to decriminalize victims of this industry, and for people to be held accountable.
“I don’t talk about prostitutes, I talk about women who are in prostitution violence is a really big part of the life of a prostitute,” she said.
According to Sister Joan, 90 percent of people in prostitution in the U.S. are trafficked — and that the job isn’t a personal choice. She says that there is a need for a larger discussion on ending human trafficking, not only within New York state but throughout the nation and the Church.
“The prostitution legalization bill is perhaps the clearest example yet of a disturbing anti-woman trend among some on the far left of the New York political scene. If passed, obviously, it would succeed only in dehumanizing women and turning their bodies into objects to be exploited for the pleasure of men,” said Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference. “We absolutely believe that most prostitutes are victims of ruthless pimps, of the men who patronize them, and of a society that has failed them.
“Already in this state, thankfully, we have changed our laws to presume that minors arrested for prostitution are victims of trafficking, and we have set up trafficking courts to deal with their cases and get them help,” Poust added. “We should be doing more for adults caught up in this industry too, but throwing up our hands and legalizing it will be counterproductive to this effort and only enslave more women.
“We remain hopeful that sanity will prevail in the legislature, and this bill will never become law.”